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Steven Wilson - The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories) CD (album) cover


Steven Wilson

Crossover Prog

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5 stars I really think that this album will be one of the pinnacles in his career and it will be dificult for him to reach again. It can be perfectly the link between Insurgentes and Grace For Drowning. The music played in it it's complex, but Steven is good at making accesible complex music. And this album grows in you from the very beginning.

He puts in this record all I wanna hear in a progressive rock band: good use of virtuosity, mellotrons, beautiful acoustic guitars, remarcable bass lines, good voices, great melodies, a lot of jazz and a flute without losing any sense of that modernity that he gets us used to with his previous works.

Guthrie Govan is much more than a "fast" player. And I said so because some people complained about it recently. The work on electric and acoustic guitar is good, and some solos are great, like the one on Drive Home. Nick Beggs has a lot to do, this record contains a lot of interesting and constant bass lines. Marco... surely Steven needs something even more crazy and beastly ( and I'm not saying better ) than Gavin Harrison for this album. The ending of The Watchmaker is a good sign of that, where Minnemann go through the fields like a crazy and unstoppable horse. Good job on the flute by Theo and Adam does great too, specially when it comes to work on a "jazz bases".

"Luminol". I'm absolutely absorbed by this song. My blu-ray device burns because of it. The live version on Mexico is astonishing. In the studio album some little details change but when you get used to it, the result is amazing.

"Drive Home". Okay, this song is maybe the most Porcupine Tree/Blackfield song on the album. I can find some short Camel and clean Opeth influences that I absolutely love. Good ending solo.

"The Holy Drinker" is pure virtuosity, ambience and it really shows the skills of every musician on this band. Personally, I love the "verse" and the "chorus", rythm and voices. The choirs combined with Steven's voice are great in this song.

"The Pin Drop" it's not a top song of the album, but it combined well with the others.

"The Watchmaker" shows us an amazing progression. Lyrically and melodically great at the beginning, the song grows until a crazy Marco and the rest put an epic end to it.

"The Raven that Refused to Thing". What to say about this song... I think it's one of the most beautiful and touching things Steven Wilson has ever created.

Finally... one mention to Alan Parsons. You have to listen carefully the entire album a lot of times to find and notice the incredible level of details that it contains. Well, what can you expect when you join in the same studio room one of the world's best young producers and one of the world's best old producers? This record.

Report this review (#890444)
Posted Wednesday, January 9, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Well I could get the album before the release date, anyway let's review the whole album step by step For almost 30 years Steven Wilson has shown a lot of abilities in different genres, since He was a teenager till now at the moment I'm writing this review listening to the first masterpiece of 2013 ! No-Man, Porcupine Tree (Psychedelic era to Heavy music era) , Bass Communion an adorable ambient project, Blackfield a soft-rock beautiful piece of art ( I mean the first 2 albums) I.E.M which is a tribute to Krautrock and so many collaborations ! the most famous collaboration was the album Storm Corrosion with Akerfeldt of Opeth which I loved it ! and now the 3rd studio album by Steven Wilson ! The Raven that Refused to Sing (and other stories) 1 - Luminol : Album starts with this 12 minutes piece of great melodies and full madness on Bass guitar ... We were able to watch this track live from the last DVD Steven released "Get all you deserve" recorded at Mexico City, the song starts with a great Bass riff it goes on and continues with lots of great melodies on Keyboards and Flute, then the vocals begins with more than 2 voices (this part is amazing!) melody continues and in a moment something like silence grows and a soft chord of guitar starts then Wilson begins to sing a beautiful story, then other instruments joins the vocals and with a GREAT GREAT solo guitar by Guthrie Govan

2 - Drive Home Starts with a beautiful simple melody then drums joins with Wilson singing so softly and so emotional, in my opinion this song is so simple although its nearly 8 minutes but its just verses and chorus, but the back instruments highs and lows of the song is simply amazing, the guitar chords I love it, the solo at the end is phenomenal, of course I forgot to say right before the solo guitar the arpeggios and the bass melody was an amazing introduction of the solo guitar !

3 - The Holy Drinker this song is all about dreams and nightmares ! its extreme on keyboards ! starts like a beginning of horror scene of a movie ! Steven really knows how to show feelings with music, dirty feelings and pure feelings all together again ! it goes with improvisation of keyboards and a crazy Bass and guitar riff then absolute drum and bass begins with the vocals and long note guitars great drum passages, it continues with the great riff of guitar and drum rhythm, chorus continues the vocal is amazing, its kinda heavy music, sax starts to fly in this ocean of music . . . after that a great Bass rhythm come along with the track, keyboards to be added at the moment, with Flute, this part is completely over the madness ! psychedelic even ! and this part ends with the drums, now cymbals come along, tranquility now . . . Steven is singing like He's in a dream, with his beautiful soft voice, with a good stereo sound you can hear the breathes, NOWWW DRUMS GUITAR, come along together, the journey is on its way to end, guitar riffs again, the song is back to the main theme, AND the end ...

4 - The Pin Drop starts with a spacey arpeggios, vocal starts to sing and back vocal is adding, right after this bass rhythm, Drum rhythm and the passages begin to play together, with a beautiful solo from Theo Travis ! the song is 5 minutes long not much progressive, but a great membrane for the rest of the album, another great guitar solo again, looks like Steven is to prove that He's great on writing solo's for any instrument !

5 - The Watchmaker

The lyrics are so beautiful, reminds me of a lonely man that struggles to find a joy in his work maybe . . . the music begins so sad, the way I love music, another beautiful arpeggios, and impressive melodies, then everything starts to slow and a modulation, then it changes the mood, turns it to a lighter way to see everything, after that guitar chords begins to work, the rhythm begins, with cymbals, bass, after the Drum passage, Travis starts to blow in his Flute, then Guthrie's magic fingers play on the guitar so beautiful, hammer on and pull off again and again, silence, the song find its new path, Wilson sings again, amazing again, God I love his voice . .. the Piano behind it is simple but amazing, it continues over and over with a beautiful few simple notes, and a great rhythm by Marco, at this moment Wilson is playing with his voice, making tunes, after that the song goes to be messy with drum solos and it finishes

6 - The Raven that Refused to Sing

My fave song of the album, a beautiful finish for the album, the song has its path from the beginning to the end, nothing changes really but the way instruments add to the song is amazing .... this simpleness is almost 8 minutes but so clever and smart that you can't feel the time because you're drowned in the song, The Raven that Refused to Sing tells us how mankind needs to be known ! how mankind needs to feel everything around . . . how We need to be together . . . how We need to tell each other what We feel and what We want, when Steven says please stay with me, the song finishes with a beautiful playing guitar chords, I watched the recording of the song, Wilson was playing this part, it was so brilliant !

Wilson has proved that more He gets avant-garde more He find new tunes, I admire him because He doesn't scare of what He does ! He just want to do what his heart says, and the album is the most progressive music that Wilson has ever made ! even more that Grace for Drowning . . . for me it's a masterpiece! 6 songs engineering by Alan Parson !!! the whole album is on its top, no weakness . . . the first 2013 album I've heard and maybe the best one

Report this review (#890508)
Posted Wednesday, January 9, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars Not a bad record . But does it deserves 5 stars ??? Can it be compared with the greatest things that were made in prog rock ?? . Good sound , , interesting structure ot the songs , good solos , but it has the same lack of ideas in melodic terms ,poor and easy melodies ,and the same booring three chords changes that has being used in rock and pop music during the last 30 years . I want to make clear that its a record that deserves being listened , but people that had already made their reviews has been too much generous . Sorry for my bad english , Just three stars , nothing more , just to put down the general average .
Report this review (#896429)
Posted Sunday, January 20, 2013 | Review Permalink
2 stars Well i never was a fan of Steven Wilson`s works , but when i heard of this album coming i got some high expectations because there were names like Alan Parsons and Guthrie Govan and ... so i said to myself this time Wilson is going to surprise us all specially when advertising of the album focused on it being the most Proggy album of Wilson yet. But when i got it and listened to it , it never satisfied my high expectations. i thinks the music here is good but it is not a Prog masterpiece ( as others said in their reviews ) at all. Yes we have a concept , the tracks are long , the musicians are great and the music is somehow jazzy and complex but is it enough to make an album that satisfy the original prog fans? i think Wilson proves the answer is no, i feel that someone just sewed different ideas and genres to shape out a bunch of songs with a nice concept. i must admit there are a few good moments in the album and if i am to choose a track out of these 6 as the best i choose The Holy Drinker. in the end i will never say this is a bad album but a Prog masterpiece? no thanks! and i got a general conclusion about Wilson: those who dont like him will never like him! he is boring to them. 2.5 realy.
Report this review (#899900)
Posted Saturday, January 26, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars I got a sneak peak of the new Steve Wilson record and I must say that it is awesome and probably some of the best stuff out there. I have tickets for the April show at the Howard Theater and can wait. I can't wait to buy the physical CD as well. It will be my son's 21st birthday and he is a big P-Tree fan as well, so it will be a really good time.

I am not going to give a track by track review because as soon as this album is formally released there will be plent of reviews by more qualified reviewers. Instead I will give an overall review.

The album starts with a powerful track; I mean a really powerful movement driven by strong base and drums. There are moments of just about every one of my favorite prog-tunes ever created incorporated into this track. It is energetic, complex and thoughtful. The rest of the album is great too, but the first track just pulls me in tight and I just stay there.

The musicianship throughout the record is superb. The mix and mastering is amazing. I think Steve has surpassed P-Tree with this one and it might be hard to turn back. One heck of a line-up Steve! I am really trying my hardest not to overrate albums with my reviews these day. I have been told that my ratings are too positive for bands that don't deserve it, but in this case I certainly don't think so. This is definitely my favorite of the year so far, and it would take one heck of a release to bump it from my top spot.

5/5 - without hesitation

It dawned on me that I never updated this review after seeing the concert. It was perhaps the best jazz fusion concert that I had ever seen. Phenomenal! and of course my perfect review and rating stands.

Report this review (#900181)
Posted Saturday, January 26, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars 8/10

The Legacy Of Progressive Rock.

"The Raven That Refused To Sing (and Other Stories)", released in 2013, is the third album by Progressive Rock artist Steven Wilson, most poplar for being the frontman of Porcupine Tree, esily one of the best Prog Rock acts of the last twenty years or so. After a few side projects such as Blackfield, and a few collaborations with other artists, Wilson started a solo career, and released "Insurgentes" in 2008. But it is with "Grace For Drowning", in 2011, that Wilson stepped up his game in a way nobody expected, and crafted one of the most beautiful and personal Progressive albums ever made. Some might consider such a statement far too much of an exaggeration, but this man, without being afraid of showing his influences, mixed the past with the present in an outstandingly sophisticated way; it's not an album that is destined to be an important point in musical history, but rather one that represents a complete portrayal of an artist, a swan song of his own.

"The Raven That Refused To Sing" comes a year and a half later. Steven Wilson seems to have already expressed his emotions in the best and most complete way possible, so it is only natural that this new album doesn't have the touching melodies and the haunting, roaring emotions of "Grace For Drowning". Even though Wilson does tend at times to repeat his sound throughout his albums, he does have the common sense not to repeat them too often. Instead, "Raven" stays as distant from his inner feelings as possible: this is the tribute to vintage Prog Rock some fans were waiting for, and others were hoping not to hear. It is by far the Jazzier, musician-oriented album yet from this artist. The songwriting is more studied and a little more distant, but it is exactly what Wilson needed to do. He unleashes on "Raven" all the love he has for Progressive music, without even looking within himself. Although it does sound like a bad premise, the songwriting, song structuring, and musicianship are so, so good, that there isn't really much that feels missing. Everything that needs to be in such kind of album is here in the most complete way. It is, in other words, a fun record for whoever is a fan of the genre, and a not-so-good record for those who are not fans enough to love Progressive Rock in any form, of any era.

What sticks out the most probably is in fact the musicianship: Steven Wilson surrounds himself with some outstanding players, including drummer fiend Marco Minnemann, bass player Nick Beggs, keyboardist Adam Holzman, flute and sax player Theo Davis. This ensemble all playing together do miracles, and Wilson himself has improved so much in both his vocal harmonies and guitar playing. With such a punch of virtuosity to the music, traces of Porcupine Tree's sound are at the minimum, unlike previous works by SW.

With six tracks, three of them above ten minutes, the other three under ten, the Porcupine Tree frontman structures his work with great sophistication, making these two kind of tracks alternate, starting with eleven minute "Luminol", easily one of the best Wilson songs ever: the opening minutes are mouth-dropping, Jazz-rock influenced passages, while the core of the track softens a bit, until slowly the song picks up momentum until it closes stronger than how the track started. The several melodies and hooks repeated themselves at the right pace, at the right time. Same thing can be said for the third track, the even Jazzier and vivacious "The Holy Drinker", that with its frequent organ usage has somewhat of a Hard rock edge to it. The last of the long songs is "The Watchmaker" perhaps the weakest of them, because of its terrible resemblance, structure-wise, with Genesis' "the Cinema Show", but it's still a great track that boasts gentle, acoustic verses that give a perfect musical variety to the album's whole. Now, the songs that divide up these three titans: the second track, "Drive Home" is a nice and calm song that has some great solos and good songwriting, while "The Pin Drop" has one of the greatest hooks of the entire album, and some of the best musicianship as well on behalf of Wilson's playing. The final track, the title track, is for sure the one that sticks out the most of the shorter songs, for its little amount of drums and incredible atmosphere that closes the album with a vibrating tension you wouldn't expect to hear.

"the Raven That Refused To Sing" is an excellent example of a modern Prog Rock album that tributes the past with newer, more elaborate sounds and great, lush production. Steven Wilson skeptics will be, for sure, multiply after this album, because of its nature, on the other hand, it might turn on some that never really were into Porcupine Tree, because almost all traces of the band's sonic characteristics are gone. Steven Wilson seems to be maturing, abandoning his roots more and more, straight towards a brave, new direction.

Report this review (#902593)
Posted Wednesday, January 30, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Steven Wilson is a man that needs no introduction in the world of prog rock. His career is full of brilliant albums with Porcupine Tree, Blackfield, Bass Communion, and his solo work. The Raven That Refused To Sing (and other stories) is Wilson's third album under his own name. This time around, he enlisted the help of producer and prog musician, Alan Parsons, renowned for his work on Dark Side of the Moon, to help engineer the album. Additionally, Wilson brought in a new lineup of musicians for this album; Marco Minnemann on drums, Guthrie Govan on guitar, Nick Beggs on bass and Chapman stick, Theo Travis on flute and saxophone, and Adam Holzman on keyboards. All of these men are masters in their respective crafts.

The album's lyrics are based on ghost stories, and a little bit of that tone bleeds into the music, with a few sections on some songs being very eerie and ominous. One notable example of that is on the song 'The Holy Drinker' which features a monstrous rumbling organ underneath a dark guitar passage. 'Luminol' starts of with a high energy bass-and- drum rhythm line, and vibrant keyboard and guitar melodies laid over top, and then settles down into a lovely mellow passage prominently featuring a piano and a flute. This album might just be Steven Wilson's best performance vocally ever. His voice has always been solid, but on here, he really uses a varying range and power to absolutely stunning effect, from soft and airy, to loud, to breathy and spooky as the music calls for it. Additionally, Wilson's mastery of songwriting is on full display here, the virtuosic pedigree of the musicians he enlisted really helping bring Wilson's vision to life. Wilson does a fair amount of the instrumentation himself, but allows the others musicians to fill out his framework with their ability. Minnemann and Beggs play off each other's rhythms perfectly, and the depth Holzman, and Travis are able to give the sound is magnificent.

Any prog fan will know Alan Parsons as the man who engineered the sound on the classic album, Dark Side of the Moon. Well, he's also the engineer on this album, and it shows. Wilson himself is no slouch at engineering and production, but having Parsons, a known perfectionist (he is rumoured to once have spent nearly two straight days trying to get one cymbal hit to sound right), can only be a help. This album sounds absolutely wonderful, with a depth in sound like very few artists have been able to achieve. The clarity on all the instruments is breath-taking, especially the flute which can be a hard instrument to capture properly. Not a single sound is too loud, too quiet, or out of place at all.

While it was a fantastic album, Wilson's previous solo album Grace For Drowning suffered just a bit from being a little overlong, a double album. On The Raven, that changes. It is only one disc, and that ensures that every good idea that can be used is used and effectively. And not only are there a lot of good ideas, but they are all extremely varied. One minute, it might be a Pink Floyd/'Hey You' type acoustic passage, the next it goes into a real blistering Yes sort of prog, and then on to something completely different and unique sounding. In 'The Holy Drinker' there is one jazzy sounding section with trading off keyboard and guitar licks, which transitions completely naturally into a heavy prog rock section. Later in the same song, the listener is treated with that absolutely massive organ chord progression, before fading out into what sounds like faint wolf howls. This is truly a varied album, one that is an amazing journey from start to finish.

The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories) is an absolute prog masterpiece, and is possibly Wilson's best work to date. It is a deep, complex, brilliantly produce creation. The technical ability on this album is mind-blowing, as is the writing and engineering. The mood settings and shifts are magnificent, and the lyrics are wonderful. Steven Wilson is a true genius, one who has consistently released top quality music and manages to keep on getting better with time. The Raven is definitely one of the best albums of the year and possibly the decade.


(written for The

Report this review (#906406)
Posted Monday, February 4, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars In the 18 months I have known of Sir Steven's existence, I have compiled a total of 71 albums from him and his various pseudonyms, albeit digitally, and about 30 in actual paid CD form. Although still in his 40's, Steven doesn't seem to ever stop producing, and his latest effort, lengthily titled "The Raven That Refused To Sing (and other stories)" is one of my favourites from him, and easily his best since 2009's "The Incident".

Now, it's 2013 now, so the Incident was 4 years ago. Technically it was only 3.5, considering it was a September release. Now for normal people, 3.5 years means one or two albums. For Steven, it means about six. Of course, there's an ambient one and there's one he only wrote one song for, but it still is a lot. But it's not just that, since the fanbase, and even Steven himself, were not entirely impressed by "The Incident", some may even say this is his best since his opus, 2007's "Fear of a Blank Planet".

This is Steven's third album under his own name, but most certainly not his third solo album. Most of the Bass Communion releases and the first few PT albums were all Steven plugging away by himself, so this is hardly a new experience for him. But since 1991 his ego has significantly grown, enough to stick his name on something and gain full credit. And I don't blame him. Steven's solo solo output began with 2008's "Insurgentes", a strange experimental rock album with influences pulled from post-punk, drone and even noise. The album wasn't received too well (although there were some glowing reviews), but Steven, having an enormous ego and a large amount of brave, decided to push Porcupine Tree to the side and continue with his solo project, much to the protest of his fanbase.

But 2011's "Grace For Drowning" deviated from the odd style of Insurgentes, into a more jazz and symphonic prog influenced piece, which made fans think twice about how average his output would be. And with this latest album, I now don't care if/when he brings PT back. This is good enough for me. This album is a more refined and shorted version of Grace, and while Grace had quite a lot of filler tracks (not that Steven ever really does filler), but it seemed that most of the second disk except for "Raider II" was a bit unnecessary. Here Steven only has 6 songs (although he said he was recording 7??..), so there is basically no filler. All of the 'styles' developed in Grace are improved on here, without meandering for minutes.

One of the apparent reasons to success behind "Fear of a Blank Planet", which is my favourite album of all time, was that Porcupine Tree decided to play it on tour before they even recorded it. It may seem like an odd decision to make, considering I hate being at concerts and not knowing the words, but it allowed Steven and his men to refine the album to utter perfection, cutting tracks, rewriting some, adding parts, and even leaving a fantastic EP of the original versions in "Nil Recurring". This time, Steven decided to run new tracks, too, but only one song, the album opener "Luminol". I remember hearing the live version from DVD "Get All You Deserve" and not really being impressed, reducing my expectations for the album. As it turns out, "Luminol" is easily the weakest on the album, and my low expectations were met with high returns.

Along with the idea of touring songs first, Steven decided on a more 70's style process of recording with the entire band in the room, creating a more live feel. To add to the 70's style, Wilson hired god-tier engineer Alan Parsons, who needs no introduction, to work on the record.

Whereas Porcupine Tree only really has one incredible (operative word: incredible) instrumentalist in Gavin Harrison (probably due to being hired after the band had become popular), Steven has truly brought in an A-team for his band, including one of the only drummers on par with Harrison in my opinion, Marco Minneman. Also included is well- renowned guitarist Guthrie Govan and Steven's regular wind persona Theo Travis. Due to this, Steven said he was aiming to create music for the musicians, even stating he was writing music that was too hard for him to play. The last time he tried that ("Normal" from Nil Recurring), it ended up quite well, seeing as Steven doesn't consider himself a very good guitarist.

To the music. I don't normally go track-by track in my reviews as I believe they begin to ramble, and I know this one will, so if you don't want to read, here is my summary: it's good, go buy it.

Luminol: I said earlier that this is the weakest track, but that really isn't much, since it's still very good. This is the "Sectarian" of this record; it opens with a dissonant jazzy bang, showing Steven's love for all sorts of weird music. It's also one of the first times Steven's shown his symphonic prog side, a genre he limited to the past. And although he has previously criticized the Yes and Genesis clones of today, he is not a hypocrite here, since the references are brief, and are definitely references, not emulations. The vocal chorus after the intro immediately reminds me of Yes, but Jon Anderson's voice is much more suited for this sort of stuff, with Steven's it sounds a bit weak, but you have to admire it from a musical standpoint. Luminol contains most of the album's jazzy parts, and although Theo Travis gets a go with one of his many instruments in almost all of the songs, this is one of the times when he gets to go completely bezerk, showing off some of the best solos of the record.

The bass is probably the highlight of this songs, which doesn't often happen in Steven's music, with a couple of the best breaks I've heard, and some wonderful riffing.

Random fact: "Luminol", spelt that way, is the name of a luminescent substance, aka glow-in- the-dark. There are also glow-in-the-dark shirts for this album on sale, so a pretty cool reference there.

Drive Home: STEVEN. WHAT. IS THAT AUTOTUNE I HEAR???? Well there's most certainly something on his voice in this one, and it's not just him talking through a telephone again. In any case, this is probably the "Postcard" of this album. It's a nice song, as are all of his ballads, but it doesn't really prove anything or serve a purpose.

The Holy Drinker: This is where it starts to get good. This is the "Remainder The Black Dog" of this album, a ridiculous epic and quite fun piece that draws as much from avant music as it does from Opeth. The opening is the most ridiculous the album gets. I would call it "heavy", but I don't want anyone getting their hopes up about metal. Travis' saxophone (or something, I'm not good with wind/brass) goes full avant-jazz at times, and is quite the storm before the calm, as we get into the verse.

Now, Steven is a master at vocal hooks. He has so many of them, and so many are good. This is one of the freshest things he's done, and the enormous AAAAAAAAAAAA at the climax of the verse is truly epic, calling back to Opeth, although more in a vocal style way than a riffing way.

The Pin Drop: This is my favourite on the album. It's also a lot of people's least favourite, but it is one of the songs that really breaks new ground for Wilson. Right from the moment the vocals come in I hear Circa Survive, although I'm worried about Steven trying to pull off his Anthony Green impression live. Whenever I hear older bands emulating newer bands I'm impressed. Many older musicians believe them superior to the younger ones, and taking influence from them is odd, like when Dream Theater did a couple of Muse songs. The primary chord sequence I believe is the same on in "Drown With Me", which may be what Steven is referencing in the lyrics to "Luminol", but it's used in a very different way. There's a strange atmosphere to this song that I can't quite pinpoint, but the chorus line is one of my favourite parts of the album. It definitely draws from the newer 'prog' bands, almost a strange alternative rock song. This is Steven moving forward again, one thing he has managed to do so well over the years, whereas bands like Dream Theater are still trying to pull out Images and Words Part II, and falling further away each time.

The Watchmaker:

This is the epic of the album. Although Luminol is longer, this one has the epic sort of feel that was found on "Raider II" from Grace for Drowning. One thing that prog bands never cease to amaze me about is how they can keep you captivated for minutes without actually getting anywhere. The first 6 minutes of The Watchmaker show little development, but seem to keep the listener intrigued the whole way. It's a softer song for the most part, unlike most of Steven's epics, and reminds me slightly of "Arriving Somewhere But Not Here" from Deadwing, at least the intro of that song. The song finishes in a rather nice 7/8 meter, one of the only times Steven breaks 4/4 time signature in this album, citing that you don't need constant complexity to be progressive.

The Raven That Refused To Sing: This was my initial favourite, and is the favourite of many, including Steven himself. Steven, over the years has made many songs which I, using eloquent internet terms, call "feel songs". He cites "Stop Swimming" from Stupid Dream as one of the most important songs he has written, and I believe "Collapse The Light Into Earth" (my favourite Wilson song), "Deform to Form A Star" and "Buying New Soul" to fall in this category of introspective and depressingly beautiful music. So naturally, since Steven has done many of these before, how can he push this title track beyond those earlier attempts? Well the simple answer is: post-rock. Despite both being a major part of the modern progressive scene, Steven has had very little to do with post- rock and shoegaze, even his ambient drone project Bass Communion rarely straying into the similarly lined ambient post-rock genre. Post-rock, done correctly, is some of the most beautiful music in the world. I'm not entirely sure of the difference between it and shoegaze, but I understand alternate picking is a shoegaze trait, and Steven breaks it out well on "The Raven". Any climax can be increased dramatically with a soaring line of alternate picking and a decent string part, so naturally "The Raven" becomes one of the best songs Steven has done. Unfortunately I still don't rate it up to the songs I previously mentioned, probably due to the fact that strip it of the strings and the shuddering climax, the song isn't that great. I still rate it highly, and hope to see how he does this one live.

Lyrics: Steven's lyrical ability has always been a mixed bag. Many people loathed the lyrics from "Fear of a Blank Planet, but I adored them, and it was one of the reasons I was so fascinated by Porcupine Tree. Over the years, Steve has written many pieces on all sorts of odd people, serial killers, rapists, people who collect model trains etc. This time around, Steven is going deeper into the macabre, with 'ghost stories' about lost people. I initially thought "Luminol" was Steven writing about himself, but my copy of prog magazine arrived yesterday and I now know it's about a busker he sees on the street, but what would happen if he disappeared, but was still there, because somehow he was part of the street corner. Reading through the summaries listed in issue 33 of Prog, it seems this is one of Steven's deepest and in fact most conceptual records lyrically. He of course gets to write about murderers again in "The Watchmaker", a tale about a man who has murdered his wife who then comes back to haunt him.

In conclusion. I don't actually know how this man does it. But this is another fantastic album. And the fact that this is only my 8th favourite SW album shows just how many fantastic albums he has made. I reckon every fan of his previous albums will find something good, but it's more lenient towards classic progressive listeners, with touches of modern influence. The production is stunning and musicianship is top notch, and I think this is another fine addition to my Steven Wilson shelf.


Originally written for my facebook page/blog

Report this review (#906776)
Posted Tuesday, February 5, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Steven Wilson never ceases to amaze me. This time he have topped himself again, and I love the direction he has taken on this album. It is clear that it draws inspiration from jazz-fusion, and many of the musicians on this album have background from that genre. The musicians are extremely talented, and it is unfair to single out one, but Marco Minnemann has alway been a favorite of mine. On this album he really shows his diversity and what an impeccable drummer he is. It is Mr. Wilson though, who is the brain behind all of this, and it is great seeing him compose this complex, but still beautiful music. He has said that he made music which he himself was not able to play, but that the fantastic band behind were able to.

In my ears the first two tracks and the two last are as good as it gets. The Holy Drinker and The Pin Drop are not at that level but still very enjoyable. I especially love the obvious influence from Genesis on The Watchmaker and the haunting atmosphere and beautiful outro of the title track. Speaking of the title track, I have to say that it is one the most beautiful tracks I have heard in a long time. When Wilson and his tremolo guitar joins in near the end I can feel it in my whole body.

Alan Parsons should also get a standing ovation for his engineering. The sound of the album is fantastic, and the fact that they recorded it all live together gives it more feeling in my ears.

A well deserved 5-star rating, and already a great contender for my pick as album of the year. It will certainly be hard to top this amazing album.

Report this review (#911187)
Posted Thursday, February 7, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars As a big fan of the classical era progressive rock, I very often have a hard time appreciating new releases even if they are highly acclaimed. The one's that I really like are few and far between like "To Shatter All Accord" by Discipline or "Sleeping in Traffic" by Beardfish. "The Raven That Refused To Sing" is yet another one of these that I would put without any hesitation among the great releases in the history of prog. The holy drinker for example is a song that really has that progressive feel to it, just as the watchmaker. Some people complain that they hear Genesis, King Crimson and even Yes out of the album. I don't understand why that should be a bad thing? We are not really drowning in high quality music nowadays and just as a sommelier after tasting a glass of wine is getting hints licorice, tobacco, leather and black currant, the perception of a little bit of the old grandeur makes it all the more enjoyable. Or do people just complain because they have no other means to express their elitist musical pattern recognition other than to bash the record? In any event, if I had to recommend only 5 releases from the past 10 years of the genre, this one would be in there for sure! 5/5
Report this review (#911762)
Posted Saturday, February 9, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars A true classic progressive rock! Steven Wilson topped himself in this album. "The Raven That Refused To Sing" is a masterpiece packed with sound layers we all familiar with and cherish. Hammond, Mellotron, distorted bass (a-la Chris Squire), sustained guitar all in a beautiful arrangements.

What makes an album to get 5 stars? What defined it "Essential" after such a short time? It's all because I want to listen to it over and over again. I'm not getting tired of it, i love what it does to me - a feeling of completion a perfection.

Steven Wilson is a longtime favorite. Porcupine Tree is undoubtedly one of the best progressive rock band of our era. In solo career SW is inventing himself all over again. There is no "hey, that sounds like Porcupine song ...". It's whole new dimension.

SW managed to get the best musicians for his projects. This album no exception. Every instrument is played by a master artist. Read the credits, learn the names.

"The Raven That Refused To Sing" is a mature, complete and sound album. It patched from Wilson's record shelf, when you can hear elements from Yes, Genesis, King Crimson and ELP. Mainly sound wise, but all is wrapped by Wilson heart. Wilson also got to new performing heights ? his singing voice is simply beautiful. Sounds like every song is sung with full attention. Musically ? it's perfect.

Report this review (#913221)
Posted Wednesday, February 13, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars I have just deleted my previous review and now I am replacing it with a much more concise, and - unfortunately - more negative analyses.

Luminol excluded (because it had already appeared on GAYD before The Raven came out), the 5 remaining tracks add very little new to the world treasury of "prog". All Steven Wilson accomplished on this album had already been done before, and, I daresay, better - by others. Wilson just lifts whole musical segments from the grand old "prog" bands with the unscrupulous impudence of a commercial pop band, borrowing a 4-chord sequence from another commercial pop band.

I don't know how one can rehash some 40 years old musical ideas and somehow convince people it's all new, progressive and unique.

Then, what's the deal with dead females? Earlier Wilson was seemingly fascinated with blank-eyed youngsters, hooked onto prescription drugs. It was legit and OK, because there is a real societal problem of urban adolescents and young adults who seem to have all but abandoned the real world and chosen to vegetate in the simulated reality of computer games and street drugs.

But, out of the 5 tracks of The Raven proper (w/o Luminol), 4 somehow are designed around female characters who suffered either premature, or violent death. Why? What's going on in Wilson's mind now?

Anyway, I found myself unable to extract any pleasure from listening to The Raven, and that's a good enough reason to rate it as "less than good".

On the positive side of course the musicianship is excellent, and some of the lyrics are pretty good, and Marco is something else .. but that's hardly enough to make an album enjoyable. Steven Wilson's singing has somewhat improved. Beggs's hair style improved quite a bit comparing to his Kajagoogoo image.

BOTTOM LINE: if you never heard early Genesis, Yes, King Crimson and the like, and you want to have a general idea of what the "prog" music was like, The Raven may be of interest as a summary/compilation of the 1970s prog.

Report this review (#916134)
Posted Tuesday, February 19, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars "The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)" released today,yes today, the 25th of February 2013, by Steven Wilson, the master of atmosphere, feelings and mood. One song by Steven Wilson can completely change your mood for all the day, I say that from experiment. "The Raven That Refused To Sing" was leaked much before the album was released, it was a really anticipated album, and in my opinion, for a very good reason. Iv'e listened to this album like two weeks ago. I started with "The Holy Drinker" track, it was amazing, very interesting, and keeps you in contact with the song, it starts with some effects that move from ear to ear (if you are listening to this in headphones), proceeds to a very nice jazzy guitar solo, then to a saxophone solo, and a very good one. This piece is a very groovy, technical one, but it is super emotional at the same, time in a way that only Mr. Steven Wilson can create, a very atmospheric, beautiful vocal of Steven, enters the line too it adds so much to the atmosphere of this fantastic track. The track has a nice organ and clarinet solo at the middle, these are very adding to this groovy dark, but very happy at the same time atmosphere, at the middle-end of the track there's a very haunting,gloomy and dreamy fantastic part, starts with some dreamy singing then proceeds to a dark instrumental, a very heavy one. This track is a fantastic work of Wilson and his team.

The next track which I listened to was "Drive Home" I really can't describe it, my words are nothing here, it starts with a very emotional guitar with piano introduction, a very strong one, continues with a unique singing which Iv'e never heard from anyone before, this piece is gives you a very strange mood, I can't really describe it, you need to listen to it to fully understand this fantastic feeling that makes you think. This is a true journey into Steven's perhaps strange and depressive mind, but you can really understand that Steven is an intelligent man only by listening to this masterpieces, which he only calls songs, I call them masterpieces, it is much more than just songs, amazing. This track has an astonishing guitar solo with some very emotional bends along to mellow, soft atmospheric drumming which matches this fantastic solo perfectly, the solo is simple but complicated at the same time.

The next piece was "The Pin Drop", well, I liked it a lot but not as much as the other tracks of this album, in my opinion it was a little more boring, it was very interesting in the start, but then it just goes over and over, and very sadly is a fantastic piece too, a really amazing one, but not as much as the other ones.

Next one was " The Watchmaker" and wow, it was fantastic, it really got into my emotions, it is a very very quiet piece, not heavy at all, with singing that matches this guitar acoustic picking so perfectly, that it makes you think, how did he do this? did god write this album for him? of course it was not what happened but it sound really like it did, I can't describe this emotional piece, this true masterpiece, this astonishing track, I think it is one of the best of this album. A very emotional but pretty technical guitar solo is included at the middle of this fantastic song, reminds me of David Gilmour's technique, after the solo begins an almost all instrumental pretty amazing part of the song, continues to a very dark part with vocals now and it is much heavier than the rest of the song, it has some really good drumming it fades out into the last note that is played by an organ.

"Luminol" was actually the first piece of this album ever to be leaked because Steven already played it in a concert, some queen style multi-vocal short transition transports us into a great psychedelic adventure,pretty groovy and loud one. This very loud beginning gives us some opportunity to get ready to the quiet beautiful part, that has some Jethro Tull flute style, which gives this song real emotion and strength, some pretty good vocals are singing quietly into the microphone and gives us opportunity to get ready for the next, more heavy part of the song, then to some beautiful solos, this song was one of the best Iv'e ever heard too, a masterpiece.

But nothing can be compared with the title track " The Raven That Refused To Sing" a very simple one yet very complex in its simplicity and emotion. It is a very haunting piece, a very dark one which always gives you a haunting feeling, but at the same time a very warming feeling. This song gave me a mood and emotions that Iv'e never felt before, I can't really find the proper words that will describe this song perfectly, this song is a very depressive one, and the clip is a very amazing and depressive clip, it is very strange and unique, and it is a masterpiece within itself, I really can't describe that feeling which Iv'e heard while listening to this song while watching this beautiful clip, amazing music with a very emotional clip which are both carefully crafted into one of the most brilliant things Iv'e ever listened to in my life, I hope to see more by the art master who have prepared this video, and by mister Steven Wilson, hopefully working together, at the way to craft more amazing masterpieces like this one.

This album is one of the best things Iv'e ever listened to in my life, I hope so much to see more work like this, I hope that we would hear more genius albums like this very soon, with more amazing artworks and clips like "The Raven That Refused To Sing" clip. Good job Steven Wilson, and his band, good luck in the future.

I would give this album 99/100 I can't give it a full hundred only because of "The Pin Drop" track which in my opinion was pretty boring.

Thank you readers, and thank you Steven for this amazing album, and for hours of fun.

Report this review (#918743)
Posted Sunday, February 24, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Once more for Steven Wilson a masterpiece of prog rock! He maybe topped himself with this album.

The sound of the band is fantastic: classic prog instruments (hammond, mellotron, sax, flute, piano...), with the usual (and even more) quality of production of SW albums. The work with Alan Parson (as sound engineer) have produced exactly what was expected.

All of this would mean nothing if musicians were poor... but here even more than in previous works, every instrument is played by an excellent musician.

They serve classic prog compositions full of complexity and feeling where you can hear influences of King Crimson, Yes, Genesis and ELP. Remixing the best King Crimson's albums in the last years seems to have inspired SW, but he manage to keep enough distance he doesn't copy these master bands.

Another positive point for SW usual listeners: he manage to develop his music in a new direction: it's still rock but elements of jazz are getting more and more evident.

And last (but not least): the beautiful limited edition (sold out before the release date) contains (in addition to drawings, photos and lyrics) short ghosts novels by SW from which the lyrics are inspired... who's best?

Report this review (#919398)
Posted Tuesday, February 26, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars The raven refused to sing because the porcupine left the tree... The forest will never be the same but that's an other story .

The raven agreed to play because the porcupine didn't want to return to the tree.... He is soaring higher and higher.

The raven stand on the the top of the tree because he can look down on the porcupine ...The porcupine can't see it

The raven raced toward the porcupine because he wanted to kill it... But he can't do it

The raven carried the porcupine away because he wanted us to forget about it... Will the porcupine be missed ?

I don't think so

Report this review (#919964)
Posted Tuesday, February 26, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars After hearing Luminol live, I knew this would be a record-breaking album. Pre-ordering The Raven That Refused To Sing months ago left me anxious like a kid waiting for Christmas. I'd have to wait beyond Christmas, before my birthday to receive my $100 award. Was it worth it? Simply yes.

Looking at the album from an overview, every song has a similar tone. This cohesive sound was somewhat lacking from Grace For Drowning, but Steven Wilson and Co. perfected it this time around. Dark, moody, beautiful... Arriving early in 2013, I already know this will be an easy Album of the Year.

"Luminol" could be compared to Riverside's The Same River. Just about the same length, few lyrics, and a beefy instrumental. Fans of the previous Remainder The Black Dog will find paradise. Listening, you forget there ever was 'Porcupine Tree'... The drums are top-notch, flutes are apparent but never overused, an amazing build-up, jazzy interludes, this song has it all.

Drive Home is a classic ballad with floating strings, guitar, vocals. Easily one of the most beautiful songs Steven Wilson's ever produced. Reminiscent of Echolyn's newest album.

The Holy Drinker. Sporadic instruments, strange tempo, chorus rattles through your mind like insanity only to reach a luscious mellotron and sax. An epic song that goes through so many phases you'll think you have Dissociative Identity Disorder.

The Pin Drop is short in length, but don't let that fool you. Brilliant chorus with a vicious saxophone solo. This solo isn't kept till the end, oh no, 1:27 in the sax erupts. In 5 minutes this song goes through so many changes it blows me away. Introducing someone to Steven Wilson, this may be the key.

The Watchmaker begins like a calm Genesis song. Fantastical lyrics, soft vocals, soothing acoustic guitar... A dream-like song that's an amazing addition to this already-perfect album, focused purely on peaceful textures.

The Raven That Refused To Sing. A conclusion to this dark, intriguing, and awe-inspiring album. Lovely piano intro to soft lyrics. Slow song, but a grand ending to this majestic masterpiece. Strings, piano, and a carefully-placed drum beat. 7:57 flies by in an instant.

I bought the limited edition box-set knowing this would be a magical experience, and yet I was still blown away. The pictures/stories add quite a bit, but not too much. Any fan should already own this anyways. Overall, it creates a unique read after listening. Memorable stories, some wonderful pictures. Porcupine Tree fans, Steven Wilson fans, and progressive music fans, rejoice!!

Report this review (#920559)
Posted Wednesday, February 27, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars The Golden Age of Steven Wilson?

I don't know how Wilson does it, but he has crafted an album that might even be better than the 2011 masterpiece, Grace for Drowning. While arguably Grace for Drowning had a few tracks that were unnecessarily elongated, all of the songs here on The Raven feel just the right length - they don't overstay their welcome (such as Raider II in Grace for Drowning).

The album wastes no time getting its listener's attention in the opening track, Luminol. It somewhat reminds me of Sound Chaser from Relayer in the way the opening is presented. Nick Beggs' bass playing is a true highlight for me (obviously, look at my username for crying out loud). The use and application of the flute and sax by Theo Travis is pure brilliance.

Drive Home could be the equivalent to I Talk to the Wind by King Crimson. The storm you heard in Luminol slows down, and what you get here in Drive Home is a beautfiul, fairly simple song with very warm, strong melodies, as well as songwriting. I agree with others' posts stating that this song would've fit in very well with Blackfield, if it were not for the jam session that goes on during the final three or so minutes.

The Holy Drinker took some time for me to appreciate. The first time I heard it, the only word that came to mind was bombast. The opening is a tidal wave of virtuostic playing which constantly comes back to a main driving chord. This is one of those songs that just gets better and better for me with every listen. There is so much going on in the song the first time you hear it though, that it can be a bit overwhelming. Take your time with this one.

The Pin Drop opens with Wilson singing in a way that I've never heard from him sing before. Is it just me, or is Wilson getting more confident lately and trying new things (his singing style in this song, doing death metal style growls in Raider II, and wow, have you seen him on stage lately? Some of his animations in the Get All You Deserve DVD are hilarious)? Some of these ideas work for me, and others do not. His singing here most definitely does. Apart from that, this farily short song has some very catchy lyrics and riffs that get stuck in your head very easily.

I would consider The Watchmaker to be the "prog epic" of this album. The song opens with some beautiful, somewhat enchanting guitar work that makes me think a little of And You and I by Yes. After several minutes of captivating melancholic playing and singing, the song starts to add more layers. One thing about Wilson that I have noticed (but by no means am putting him down for) is his use of humming. I knew somewhere in this album we would get a section of "la da da da das", which there are in this song for several minutes, and is very moving the way it is incorporated with the context of the music. Finally, the ending comes to a dazzling crescendo that was perfectly built up towards. Very gratifying.

The final song, The Raven That Refused to Sing, was the song I had been waiting for. I had heard so many great things about this song on progarchives, as well as other reviewing sites. Even Steven Wilson himself in an interview said he thinks this song is one of the greatest songs he'd ever written.

I completely agree with him.

It is very hard for me to write in words what this song means to me. It is warm, tender, gorgeous, and very, very, emotional. The use of symbolism of the raven by Wilson is a perfect fit for the subject matter of the song. If you are going to shed a tear while listening to this album, this will probably be the song where it will happen. It is one of the strongest, if not, strongest closer to an album I've ever heard.

Steven Wilson is without a doubt creating some of his strongest work of his career right now, and I feel fortunate to be living during this time to experience it. I have no disbelief that, especially after this release, Wilson will be regarded as one of the greatest prog artists to ever live. Perhaps in ten or twenty years he will even be often mentioned right alongside legends such as Yes, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Genesis, and Jethro Tull. Is this as good as it gets? Possibly.

Truly a masterpiece of progressive rock music - 10/10

Report this review (#920758)
Posted Thursday, February 28, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars I'm going to keep this short and simple. Steven Wilson is a genius. The Raven That Refused To Sing (and other stories), is his best effort yet! It has everything that a prog lover desires, epic songs, odd time signatures and more. All the tracks on this album are amazing. Full of atmosphere. My favorite being The Watchmaker. I'll be honest, I am a fan of Steven's. I like all of the Porcupine Tree albums. With that being said, I was not too impressed with his last 2 solo albums, but The Raven That Refused to Sing (and other stories) knocks it out of the ball park. If he keeps this up I will not miss Porcupine Tree at all. 4 1/2 stars!
Report this review (#921156)
Posted Friday, March 1, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars It would seem that Steven Wilson divides progressive rock music critics. Some consider him derivative, while others approve of his contemporary reflections of the genre. The current Progarchives ratings illustrate this dichotomy very well. One moment his most recent album is on the verge of making the top ten albums of all time, the next it is discarded to the low thirties (not that this is a lowly achievement). Two or three negative opinions impact on an otherwise growing trend to consider the album one of the best of all time.

"The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)" is one of the best things, if not the best thing, that Steven Wilson has ever done.

Progressive rock needs its torch bearers, and apart from recent reprises by Van der Graaf Generator, King Crimson, Rush and Jethro Tull (Ian Anderson) there are arguably few that bring the triumphs of the past into the present. The arrival of the Punk movement all but destroyed Progressive music. Take a look at the top 30 prog albums of all time on this website and almost all come from that earlier time. Arise Steven Wilson ? a child of the 80's who found his love of 70's prog (coupled with Donna Summer!) to be the founding influence on his musical journey into the present.

His music may sound like some of the greats from earlier times. Why wouldn't it? Re-mixing albums from the masters and rekindling Floydian soundscapes in his earlier works will always have people believe that. However, his music remains contemporary ? it is firmly grounded in the present and provides his perspective and talents on what music should sound like ? whether that music be progressive, jazz, fusion, drone, heavy or not. Parts may seem borrowed, but they are his compositions and his playing and his interpretations of previous influences with his ideas of the current. Any new band is always compared with those that have gone before. That is not a bad thing ? but new music should always be considered in its own right.

Alan Parsons and Wilson have ensured that the analogue, band-driven approach has produced a warm sound that blends the harsher elements of heavy guitar and thumping bass with the subtler melodies on jazz piano and flute. It would be a harsh critic that could listen to the final results in surround sound and not appreciate the amazing separation and clarity of instruments that it brings.

Wilson's studio band (almost the same as his previous touring band), are consummate professionals and masters of their craft. Ironically, allowing them to construct some of the more melodious parts of the album ensures that this album is more cohesive and accessible than his earlier works. Some describe "The Raven" as boring and without passion. This is in stark contrast to the many reviewers of the title track on Youtube that admitted to being heavily affected by music that is beautiful and sad at the same time. Holzman's piano with Wilson's writing on the track brings a rare combination of melancholy and grace. Govan's solo effort that concludes Drive Home is sublime ? and as others have noted it ranks up there with Comfortably Numb.

Derivative? Perhaps. Reflective and inspired by the greats of progressive rock? Yes!

Get the album and be your own judge. Maybe like many here you will consider it a masterpiece and rank it accordingly. This album deserves to be firmly placed in the top twenty of all time.

Report this review (#921295)
Posted Friday, March 1, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars It never ceases to amaze me at what endless creativity Steven Wilson seems to have. The guy is just a songwriting machine, and it seems like that no matter what project he is writing for lately, whatever comes out of it is simply brilliant.

After Grace for Downing, I thought it would be hard for him to top that as a solo artist, but he has somehow done it, thanks to bringing his touring band into the studio and making his 3rd solo effort more of a collaborative effort, rather than him hiring musicians to play everything he wrote. The result: The Raven That Refused to Sing, which appears to be one of his best overall works to date.

The Raven... manages to have the classic Wilson sound and trademarks, while blending in some very strong 70s symphonic rock influences. Classic prog has always been detectible in Wilson's writing, but it has never been as strong as it is here. And yet it still manages to not sound derivative; it sounds very much like a Steven Wilson record. There simply aren't enough words for what an amazing songwriter this guy is.

Report this review (#921496)
Posted Saturday, March 2, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars On the surface, this album is a collection of songs based on ghost stories and tales of the supernatural, but beneath that really these are stories about humanity, with a depth of emotion not found on many new prog albums these days. I've been getting very emotional listening to this album - especially the title track, when complemented by the video that is available on the web. The musical performances are amazing, complementing the stories/lyrics perfectly, without veering off into excessive prog rock "noodling". While I loved "Grace For Drowning", I think this album even tops that one. If you can, get the Blu-Ray version to hear this in 5.1 surround, to fully experience the amazing production quality of this album from Mr. Wilson and Alan Parsons. Highly recommended!
Report this review (#922167)
Posted Sunday, March 3, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars 10/10

This is the record of someone who is not afraid to hide their influences, a statement made by someone passionate about what they do and hear. It is no secret that Steven Wilson is a experimental / progressive '70s music's lover, and in their various side projects he has the opportunity to show each of the facets that inspired him in his solo shows he willing to exhibit them at your leisure. If Insurgentes was an homage to new wave / alternative rock / drone music of the 80s (still lack hear him to draw my own conclusions) and Grace for Drowning was laden with references to the eclectic music / experimental '70s, The Raven That Refused to Sing (and Other Stories) it is "basically" the update that is most genuine and pure progressive classic rock.

This is the masterpiece I knew he could do.

First of all I must say that I am not part of the majority who agree that his predecessor, Grace for Drowning, was a masterpiece. In my opinion it was an album of good moments, but mostly super-ships, where Steven failed to show all his talent. But The Raven ... is actually magnum opus this man, the fulfillment of years of work and creativity of this modern genius. No wonder it is highly sought about musicians, and I must make mention specifically for bassist Nick Beggs, drummer Marco Minnerman and flutist / saxophonist Theo Travis, this little figure repeated in prog albums.

If you're doubting my words about The Raven ... be a genuine progressive album, listen to the first four minutes of the opening Luminol. Although Wilson is the frontman of this line- up, is Beggs who dominates this majestic introduction with his poignant and fretless bass, which is one of the most reverent to the prog classic that I have heard in recent times. One notable thing is that it has been played at concerts since last year, as seen in his DVD Get All You Deserve. For this presentation you can see that Steven seems a little doidinho with those weird gestures and how they guide their companions. This is an epic song, in twelve minutes, is the longest on the album. It is divided into three distinct sections: the introductory jam, a quieter section with smooth vocals and instruments (which is a beautiful thing to hear) and more an instrumental part where some themes are repeated and musicians and will return to meshing "fury "from the beginning. A masterpiece.

Drive Home is the kind of perfect complement, referenced with 21st Century Schizoid Man / I Talk to Wind: a track rather quiet, with soft vocals and ethereal passages quite pastoral. She gains strength from the stupendous and dramatic solo Steven, who is really a glimpse. The Holy Drinker music is darker, my lack of knowledge of English prevents me from understanding the contents of the letters, but it should be a pretty grim subject. The vocal harmonies of the chorus are a sideshow. And its end, with that terrifying mellotron, is bristling hairs. The Pin Drop is shorter here, and by far the most "heavy" in its chorus that combines rhythmic passages with vocal harmonies (Steven really like that sort of thing).

The Watchmaker is where the references are more obvious. If you associate your beginning and pastoral passages with soft guitars and flutes to Genesis, then you are on the right track. It is indescribably beautiful. Now, as to its frightening end I have my issues. I think the music deserved a few more minutes. If it was an epic about 17 minutes, I think I'd be satisfied. Yet it is genius. The title track closes the album, and this may be the most beautiful and emotional that this genius has written. The sad story of a man who combines a crow to the spirit of his dead sister (I recommend you to watch the clip) is beautiful, even more by sweet melodies and majestic that accompany it. Without haste she grows, until its final apotheotic. Perfection in music that makes me love progressive rock.

5 stars. I know the year is just beginning, but as Steven Wilson as Riverside has guaranteed their positions in the TOP 10 at the end of the year.

Report this review (#923723)
Posted Monday, March 4, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars The number of reviews and ratings for this album in such a short period is staggering. What can I say about The Raven that hasn't already been said? A much lauded album by mastermind Steven Wilson who never ceases to impress and who has proven once again to be the most prolific artist in modern prog. Liberated from the restraints of Porcupine Tree he shows his fascination for the artists that inspired him. Insurgentes was clearly inspired by doomrock artists like The Cure, Grace had obvious King Crimson tendancies, probably due to Wilson's remastering work on the early KC albums, The Raven shows signs of proglegends like Peter Gabriel era Genesis, Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. I was already familiar with opener Luminol, as it was played during the Grace for Drowning tour as an encore. It was announced during the tour that this track would be on a new album, just to make all of us curious. And I must say, the other five songs that accompany Luminol do not disappoint at all. Not a bad track on this album. Favourits? Drive Home, The Watchmaker (very Genesis-like) and the title track, which is a tearjerkingly moving song about an old man who has to live with the fact that his sister died at an early age and never got over it. The artwork is stunning as ever. SW really surpassed himself this time. Each song a mystery story in the vain of the great Edgar Allen Poe. The title of the album leaves no room for speculation. Definitely five stars. SW has done it again and has done it better!
Report this review (#924678)
Posted Tuesday, March 5, 2013 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars Reading some of Steven Wilson's comments to his fans here ans at other sites, I get the feeling that he has never been too comfortable with being labeled as a prog musician. And that feeling causes me to wonder if on this album he is making or making fun of prog.

We all know that Wilson has spent much of his time the last few years making remixed versions of classic prog albums by some of the greats, including King Crimson, Emerson Lake & Palmer and Jethro Tull. It could be that here he is just paying homage. If so, it is fine homage. If not, it makes me think of Mark Wahlberg's character in the film "The Other Guys", where he becomes very good at all sorts of artistic endeavors (such as ballet dancing), just so he can show the other kids "how stupid it is".

Don't get me wrong, just like Ian Anderson's thumbing his nose at the genre with "Thick As A Brick", Wilson has managed to create an excellent album of original music. But some of the influences sound a bit too cliched to my ear, and almost gratuitous.

Luminol, the opener, is a gem of a track, blending old school prog with modern prog metal. It has a fantastic funky bass line, and uses Robert Fripp's own Mellotron for that retro effect. Drive Home is slightly reminiscent of Moonchild from the first King Crimson album. The Holy Water has some organ playing that borrows from Keith Emerson's history. All of these have fine flute and sax riffs that bring classic Mel Collins to mind.

The Pin Drop is the weakest song on the album. Instead of looking back at classic prog, it sounds to me more like Wilson's Porcupine Tree efforts, that have way too much of the alt-rock sound for my tastes.

The Watchmaker sounds like a nod toward Genesis, with some light opening verses that would sound very much like the aforementioned group if Wilson sang with a thin, nasal Gabriel/Collins-like tone (luckily, he does not. The middle section of this tune reminds me of King Crimson's One More Red Nightmare, before a Tony Banks-like arpeggio brings back the Genesis feel, but with some Yes (South Side Of The Sky) and even a Rush lick thrown in.

And the title track at the end is a good, but not overwhelming crescendo for this album.

There are a lot of parts of this album that bring to mind very specific pieces of classic prog, and some that just capture the spirit of those bands. But even so, Wilson has managed to come up with a wonderful collection of music.

Steven, if you read this and I am wrong about your intentions, I'm sorry. But I still love the album.

Report this review (#924683)
Posted Tuesday, March 5, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars When I first got this album, I was skeptical because of all the good reviews I had read on this site. I own a couple Porcupine Tree albums but before now, I had never owned a Steven Wilson album. My expectations were that they would sound pretty similar. Well, anyways, I was always a fan of Porcupine Tree but this album is better than any PT music that I've listened to. I mostly use music as background noise when I'm doing other stuff but more than once I found myself losing my train of thought and get lost in the music that is The Raven That Refused to Sing. I'm fairly new to prog scene and don't know all the technical details of what makes a good prog album so I just listen with my ears and they do the deciding for me. Well, my ears have spoken and they both like this album a lot. Despite all my praise, this is not a perfect album. It's almost a 5 star but I have to give this album 4 stars.
Report this review (#924818)
Posted Wednesday, March 6, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars I didn't know how Steven Wilson could ever top Grace for Drowning, but he seems to have done it here on his 3rd solo album The Raven That Refused to Sing. A 55 minute affair, this album has 6 tracks, 3 of them over 10 minutes.

This time around Wilson has gotten together a band of some remarkable musicians (Guthrie Govan and Marco Minnemann included), and recorded the entire album with them (unlike Insurgentes and Grace for Drowning). They're all extremely talented and each of their playing is astounding on this album.

The album is based around stories of the supernatural. Wilson was influenced by writers such as Edgar Allen Poe while writing the lyrics for this album.

Luminol opens the album with a bang, with a funky bass line and interesting drums. There are flute and guitar solos, and it's overall just a magnificent prog extravaganza. Each band member gets their moment to shine. The lyrics concern an old busker who suddenly dies, but then continues busking, even in his death.

Drive Home is the TRTRTS equivalent of a Grace for Drowning song like Deform to Form A Star or Postcard. It has a very beautiful verse melody, a trend continued in the chorus, and throughout the whole song. The strings add a nice touch to the song, and the phenomenal guitar solo tops it off. The lyrics concern a man who is trying to understand and get past his wife's death, who died in a car crash.

The Holy Drinker's lyrics are about a hypocritical man who claims to be righteous and holy, but is an alcoholic. He challenges the devil to a drinking game, and of course loses. The music is very representative of the themes in the lyrics, especially at the end of the song. The track is over 10 minutes long, and like Luminol, is fantastic, jazzy but still aggressive prog piece which will go down as one of Wilson's best songs (which is saying something).

The Pin Drop is the shortest track on the album, at just over 5 minutes, but packs a punch. It's an amazing piece, with a stunning soprano saxophone solo, lush vocals and guitars, and a nice feel to it overall. The lyrics concern the idea that the sound of a pin dropping can instigate people to unleash the fury that they have, in this case, between a husband and his wife.

The Watchmaker opens with a very Genesis feel to it (think the beginning of Supper's Ready), with beautiful acoustic guitars and singing. The song continues in a very proggy fashion, and ends phenomenally. This song has quite a 70s feel to it, at least until the end section. The music goes nicely with the lyrics about a watchmaker who kills his wife after 50 years of being together. But, of course, they've been together for 50 years, why would she leave now? She ends up pulling the watchmaker to his death too.

The Raven That Refused To Sing is arguably Wilson's best song. Yes, you read that correctly. It's outstanding, even on this astounding album, as a masterpiece of a track. It's an emotional rollercoaster if you can connect to the lyrics, which are art even on their own. The words sung are about a man who lost his sister when he was very young. His sister would always sing to him when he was afraid or worried. A raven starts to visit his garden, and he believes that if he can get the raven to sing, he will have proof that the raven is his sister trying to talk to him. The actual music is astounding. This is one of those 12.5/10 songs.

The album has a very lush, 70s sound to it, thanks to legendary engineer Alan Parsons, who worked on the Beatles' Abbey Road and Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon.

Overall: This album is an astonishing effort by Steven Wilson and band, and will go down as one of his best ever albums, if not the best. 11/10 (but I can't do that, so 10/10 will have to do).

Report this review (#925572)
Posted Thursday, March 7, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Tell Steven Wilson that the album as an art form is dead. I dare you.

For most listeners under the age of 30, it probably doesn't matter that the greatest contemporary bands ? consider Radiohead and the Flaming Lips, Tame Impala and Foxygen ? are still crafting full, purposefully sequenced collections of songs meant to be listened to in one sitting, if at all possible. They are still likely to cherry-pick the songs they like and either download them individually or stream them. It's what they know.

The under-30s who do grasp the concept of the album as musical statement aren't likely to stumble upon it if they spend their time in the mainstream. They'll have to work for it.

"The Raven That Refused to Sing (and Other Stories)," Wilson's third solo album (out now), would be a fine place to start for anyone curious about the supposedly antiquated idea of "the album." It is a throwback to an older, venerated age, when virtuosic musicianship met deeply imaginative compositional conceptions. The album's seven pieces can be seen as one multisegment composition, but they also can be treated as songs ? either method works. This is, quite literally, an album constructed the way the most imaginative artists did it back in the middle 1970s.

That said, "Raven" is no mere nostalgia trip, nor is it solely a record aimed at the hearts of alienated rock music fans who wonder why no one seems up to the task of creating something as majestic as Yes' "Close to the Edge," or even Radiohead's "OK Computer" anymore. It's a modern-sounding collection, even if it is littered with references to the most grandiloquent masterpieces of progressive music.

Wilson ? erstwhile leader of Porcupine Tree, and member at various points of the side-projects Blackfield, Storm Corrosion, No-Man and Bass Communion ? has delivered his finest work with "The Raven." Considering that he already has at least a half-dozen stone-cold classics under his belt, that's saying something.

With Porcupine Tree on hiatus, Wilson formed a powerhouse new band to tour behind his outstanding "Grace for Drowning" album in 2011. The tour was so well-received, and the experience apparently so personally rewarding, that Wilson almost immediately set about the construction of this new project when the "Grace" tour ended.

It's abundantly clear that he is inspired by these musicians ? only guitarist Guthrie Govan is new to the band, with bassist Nick Beggs, drummer Marco Minnemann, keyboardist Adam Holzman and saxophone/flute player Theo Travis being holdovers from the "Grace" tour. They are scary good as individual players, and simply breathtaking in their ensemble performance, revealing deep experience in the worlds of jazz, rock, progressive music and fusion.

Happily, Wilson, who also plays guitar, bass, mellotron and piano on the album, has given these musicians plenty to chew on. His compositions are wildly ambitious at one turn, achingly ruminative and melodic at the next. The 12-minute opener "Luminol" comes screaming out of the gate with a knotty prog-rock motif led by bassist Beggs, moves through interesting spins of prog-rock tropes ? one can easily spot the influence of Gentle Giant, Rush, early Genesis and Return to Forever within the first four minutes ? and reveals the dizzying complexity of Wilson's compositional mind by the time it's through.

Things then proceed apace, as Wilson moves freely and gracefully between more subdued, acoustic textures, (the aching "Drive Home"), gnarly jazz-fusion motifs ("The Holy Drinker") and epic, Pink Floyd-like ballads (the album-closing title tune). It all adds up to an embarrassment of riches for listeners who appreciate stellar musicianship and daring songwriting. (If you don't, steer clear. This is not the sort of music that holds your hand and walks you safely toward the chorus.)

Wilson engaged revered producer Alan Parsons ? yes, the guy who worked on the Beatles' "Abbey Road" as a kid, then went on to produce Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" ? to aid him in capturing the majesty of this music on tape. The production here is all but transparent ? "The Raven" boasts a live-off-the-floor feel, and is not given to excessive technological frippery. The production seems written into the songs and the arrangements themselves.

All of this would be enough to recommend "Raven" as an inspired work. But there's more. In his lyrics, Wilson conjures a world where the living and the dead commingle, and it is often difficult to tell them apart. There is an air of the gothic at work, but not the cheesy pseudo-goth of the CW's "Vampire Diaries" or the "Twilight" series.

In Wilson's hands, this strain recalls Edgar Allan Poe's "Ligeia," in which the lines between ghosts and corporeal beings become blurred, past and present intermingle, and a sense of all-pervading loss is summoned.

Wilson does this without being maudlin, which is no mean feat. During the album-closing title song, he crafts a character haunted by loss, and of the firm belief that his dead sister has been reincarnated as a raven. Not many rock songs deal with the concept of transubstantiation, but this one does, over an elegant, if haunting, piano-led chord progression that builds toward a transcendent coda. It is a stunning conclusion to a brilliant song-cycle.

Report this review (#925719)
Posted Thursday, March 7, 2013 | Review Permalink
Second Life Syndrome
3 stars 3.5 stars

Just about every review thus far for Steven Wilson's "The Raven That Refused To Sing" has been praising the album as a progressive rock masterpiece; as essential prog fare for 2013; and so on and on. While I do not disagree that this wonderful album deserves a spin by every true prog fan, I'm not sure I can call it a masterpiece.

Wilson outdoes himself in this album with an amazing sound mix. He truly is a wizard: The 70's vibe that he portrays here is masterfully mixed and well written. Indeed, I really love the concept of an album all about ghost stories. I think Wilson knocked that concept out of the park. Not only that, but the musicians really amazed me. The musicians are very tasteful and restrained here, but can shred when they need to do so. The bass player and drummer especially amazed me with their unique approaches, instead of trying to just drown out everyone else. And, as always, Wilson's vocals are above average.

Yet, I cannot slap a 5-star rating on this album. I feel that Wilson tried hard to write plenty of instrumental passages (maybe trying to impress progheads? Not enough lyrics? Who knows.), but they usually come off as wandering and pointless. Take, for instance, the first track, "Luminol". This track begins with an amazing bass line and instrumental portion. Yet, it is the best instrumental portion in the entire album! It is to-the-point and groovy. But, as the song progresses, Wilson loses his focus. I feel that way about almost every song; too much filler.

That said, this album is very well done. The title track is already in my Top 5 songs for the year, for words cannot describe how masterful it is. You see, Wilson's composition is focused, emotive, and spell-binding on the title track; something he just missed in most of the other tracks. If the entire album had been as amazing as the final track, I feel we would already have the album of the year. As it stands, this is a great album; yet I think it will be forgotten relatively soon.

Report this review (#928081)
Posted Sunday, March 10, 2013 | Review Permalink
Errors & Omissions Team
1 stars With The Raven That Refused To Sing And Other Stories (2013) I decided to finish my hate affair with this musician. I don't like Steven Wilson's music, period. I tried far too much with many Porcupine Tree albums and now in his solo carrer. And that will not change with The Raven That Refused To Sing And Other Stories (2013), his new album.

What everyone else seems to praise in his music I find annoying, derivative, boring and very, very average. And I'm still trying to understand why he's considered a great mind in the 'New Days Of Progressive Rock'. And if he is, we're definitely screwed.

To begin with, I find his voice annoying and his composing dull most of the time and all seem to be too derivative. Everything was done before... and better.

I must admit that Nick Beggs, the bass player, is someone to pay attention to, especially on the first part of 'Luminol', the opening track. But soon his playing is buried under Wilson's music. There's a bunch of nice flutes here and there, but Wilson ruined it with lots of ridiculous keyboards and a fake drum sound. And they call him 'genious of sound', I still wonder why!

The opening track is the only exception of good moments in The Raven That Refused To Sing And Other Stories (2013) And it's quite obvious that Steven Wilson wrote this album while he was doing the 5.1 versions of King Crimson albums, that's for sure, cause it's almost a copy of their work, as with others of his albums. Solo, with Porcupine Tree or whatever he records.

There are some nice moments here and there, but all in all the album is so... empty. There's nothing IN it. It's only an empty shell, it's only... posing. All for show. It's like Wilson was sitting with his notebook making a list while recording: - Mellotron - checked - Minimum 10 minutes lenght - checked - Late 60's atmosphere - checked - More mellotron - checked - Epic ending - checked

A VERY average album, and of course will not change my mind about Steven Wilson A forever average Joe in Prog World to me.

But you cannot argue with one thing, Wilson is an amazing... seller. He'll sell his fans an empty box and they'll buy with a big smile on their faces.

Report this review (#929249)
Posted Wednesday, March 13, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars 10, cum laude. The Genius that Resonated to the Stars

Enormous. A "desert island" record. This is the magnum opus he had inside, and finally came out: full of all kind of musical passages. Emotional, adventurous, classical, retro, melodious. Not every single second of this "The Raven..." is devoid of meaning. In each of the 6 gems, there are plenty of full musical burst (guitars, flutes, keyboards, drums, and many others!) that let my spline vibrate and resonate, thanks also to a superb group of musicians. Oh, and stories also, supporting the whole. I won't make a song by song review - it would be insufficient to describe the fact that this has to be considered one of the most totally immersions in rock/prog music, with a stellar production (again, he beat himself on this). I've finally received a music statement from Steven Wilson, raising emotions, and it seems he also had FUN in making this - something he was missing a bit since "The Incident" with Porcupine Tree. I wonder, can be any future for music, after this one? It looks like a definitive monument...but the answer is "The Raven..." itself: there is always future for music, when talent, ideas and emotions fuse together.

Report this review (#929354)
Posted Wednesday, March 13, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars 8.5/15P. This album leaves me helpless. So many decent ideas and so much talent here, but why does it all need to be so straight and perfectionist that even during the concerts the video clips are perfectly synced to the music?

I still remember clearly most of the moments which defined and shaped my life. And I'm grateful that I don't only remember them, but that I'm also aware that these situations had a distinct impact on the course of my life. These situations include social ones, experiences connotated with different places, and - which is why I am here - confrontations with music I didn't know before, or music whose qualities I didn't know until a variable number of listens. For instance I attended a multimedial show in a planetarium when I was a child, a show in which they played back Pink Floyd music while presenting films made in space. The effect which this little show made on me is invaluable in retrospect. Many years later, in 2011, I first listened to the debut album by Caravan, and the massive organ carpets suddenly catapulted me into a higher dimension - or, to put it more factually, into a different understanding of music. At a different time I - having bought and decently enjoyed a lot of albums of that genre before - listened to Steeleye Span's Lowlands of Holland on one summer evening somewhere in the fields. I had listened to this piece many times before, but on this occasion it opened the whole world of folk music for me, converting the unknowing enjoyment into a kind of spiritual connection to these sounds. Just as if I had been walking up a mountain in misty weather a thousand times, wondering why the people make such a fuss about mountaineering, then until one clear day when I finally see mountains at a distance of more than 200km. I also had a similar experience in February 2013 when Junip released their single Line of Fire, which kept me confident that transcendental music did not die in 1977, but rather transformed itself into a different style along with the huge changes in society which occurred since then.

Just looking at the credits and the artwork of Steven Wilson's Grace For Drowning in 2011 I knew that this album could be a huge cornucopia of good ideas. Still, after a lot of listens, I cannot really manage to view and estimate that album as a whole; but especially the electronic parts, which remind me of Steven Wilson's early trip-hop excursions, and the ambient parts with Wilson's restrained multi-instrumental works (dulcimer, autoharp, harmonium etc) always keep me motivated to listen to this album again and again, each time hoping to find something new.

I was pretty excited about The Raven That Refused To Sing when I pre-ordered it in vinyl at Burning Shed. Get All You Deserve, and especially Holzman's inspiring keyboard madness in Luminol, maybe didn't appear to me as a genuine musical masterpiece, but definitely as a step in the right direction - in a musical genre in which most of the time every step you make is a step into the past, a step closer to artistic insularity and musical fundamentalism.


Let's start with the positive aspects of this albums - and there are quite a lot of them. Again, the maniac electric piano work by former Miles Davis collaborator Adam Holzman, stands out on Luminol. The electric piano is fed through distortion devices and a ring modulator, and in the end the intensity of this stuff equals Dave MacRae's (Matching Mole) and Steven Miller's (Miller/Coxhill) more furious solos. The bass work by Nick Beggs is similarly convincing - especially the tritone-laden solo riff is quite a treat. Okay, the 'key chords' of the song are slightly derivative of Soft Machine's Pig, but I don't really mind this. At the latest, the Porcupine-Tree-ish mid-90s breakdown with the strummed electric guitar and Govan's jazzy lead guitar is able to put the same kind of big smile on my face as The Moon Touches Your Shoulder once did.

Govan's lead guitar in general is pretty good; he orients himself a lot towards Steve Hackett in terms of technique, but he might be the man in the band who puts the biggest emotion in his playing. He helps making the ballad Drive Home, which wouldn't be out of place on Porcupine Tree's The Incident, being a perfectly good listen at least over the first 6 minutes - afterwards it tends to become a bit overlong. Many critics highlight this track as the least convincing track of this album, but it grabs me as a pretty great piece of wistful alternative rock - the genre Wilson (until now) had the greatest artistic success in. The second half of The Watchmaker heads into a similar direction and is similarly successful. In retrospect, The Incident was a pretty good album after all!

The title track, a sparsely instrumentated neo-classical piece with grand piano and dense string arrangements, subtly builds on the cold atmosphere which was already conveyed on Grace For Drowning. The accompanying music video, an unusually sinister and insightful cartoon, is able to add a new dimension to the story which depicts a topic which the whole album actually reflects: aged people looking back on a life of losses, lost chances or wasted time. Former Hatfield & The North keyboarder Dave Stewart is again aboard as the arranger, and although his work is harmless and quiet compared with his eccentric Northettes choir arrangements, the orchestral work is tasteful and well-conducted. In the finale of the track, performed by the whole band, the strings really cumulate and rise and create something like an uplifting coda of a mainly cold album.

Alan Parsons' production is warm and absolutely good, but it ain't exactly imaginative. It's subject to the compositions - like quite a lot of aspects of this album. Although I enjoy Stewart's arrangements quite much, they mostly have the quality of film music. Don't get the album for Dave Stewart's participation, however, if you expect something like Mumps - he's more or less a studio musician here; no keyboards performed by him, of course.


In spite of these good (and sometimes great) moments, the first listens of the The Raven That Refused To Sing album, both in the studio version and in Wilson's Cologne live concert, however, were a bit disappointing. It's neither that I would call this album boring - boredom occurs when a musician has a lack of ideas, and this ain't the case here. Nor am I annoyed by the neo-prog plagiarism phenomenon - there are some moments which fit into this category, but Wilson has too much knowledge of progressive rock and craves too much for creating something of his own to simply copy an idea by a different musician.

The problem rather is that I feel too comfortable in the consistently safe fairway of this album. When you listen to the tense Gilmourish introduction to The Pin Drop you know that some verses into the song Wilson is going to break into another tritone-filled dissonance, most possibly with fat guitars, mellotron or backing vocals. And, voila: at 1:14 the surmise proves true. I maybe would have expected this part to be mixed more differentiatedly (it's a bit of a mayhem), but whatever - it was pretty clear that something like this would come.

The same case in The Holy Drinker. When I saw that the song turned to quietness about two minutes before the end of the song, I knew that it was time for the big finale with metal guitars, dissonant counterpoints and busy drums. Go to 8:32 and listen to what happens. It's a biological fact that an immediate loud keyboard chord after a period of silence is a surprising moment, but too often it's hardly more than an effect here. Genesis' The Musical Box, for example, had a mighty finale which acted as the end of a big arc of suspense. I don't find this suspense on The Raven That Refused To Sing - here it's more a kind of 'arc of structure' or (expressed a bit unfairly) 'arc of predictability' which keeps the pieces together.

You might wonder why I have never mentioned Theo Travis in this review until now. Well, that's because he rarely attracts a great deal of my attention during the album. Not because he ain't able to do this - in fact, his tiny little flute lick in The Sky Moves Sideways, Phase Two is frequently swirling through my head. As a part of the Steven Wilson Band Theo Travis is a part of the arrangement, subject to the songs and their structure. The same issue with Adam Holzman: a passionate jazz pianist with his rare glittering outbursts on electric piano and Moog - not only in Luminol, but also in The Holy Drinker (0:28 onward, great) - but most of the time playing block chords and the occasional Hammond organ, the latter (sadly quite often) sounding like it always does on retro prog albums.

I cannot count out that my way of listening to music is too arrogating - maybe Wilson's music isn't addressed to fools like me who raise foolish predictions how the next part of the respective song could sound. And I firmly believe that real musical progress is always bound to technical progress - this is how rock music came into being. At the moment, there's no current invention like the first synthesizer or the first electric guitar. Hence it definitely would be arrogating to say that only revolutionary music is good music. And definitely this ain't how I perceive the nature music either.

Those of you who have read some of my reviews may have noticed how much I like (mostly British and Celtic-based) folk music, which is arguably the most minimalist music ever in terms of composition. There might be songs which are sung a capella, and they might be absolutely striking and beautiful - without complex chords, without instruments, without any arrangements. With just a voice and a melody sung to the endogenous metre of the lyrics. What brings sparse (and often ancient) pieces like these to live is first and foremost the delivery, the performance.

And this is the last aspect I'd like to point out about this album and my opinion of it - perhaps it's just a folly of my thoughts, but perhaps it's also a hint for some to listen to this record in a different way. A possible, and in my opinion plausible, explanation for my ambivalence towards Wilson's work is that he himself is an ambivalent musician. An emotional composer on the one hand, a cool performer on the other hand. The melodies and chord progressions themselves are absolutely inspired and filled with true sadness, anger and an occasional bit of hope. But, especially seeing Steven Wilson live as a performer, it seems he excludes the emotions as much as possible from his playing and singing - at least when these feelings threaten to disturb the structure of his work. I've already pointed out which aspects I complain about the music itself - but when played live the music is played in exactly the same way as in the studio (apart from some parts of the solos), perfectly synced with the music videos which are played in the background.

The guitar playing on certain bits and pieces, for instance, slightly resembles Anthony Phillips' guitar work - arpeggiated 12-string-guitar chords, most clearly to be heard on The Watchmaker. I don't really hear a clear hint at the Trespass material, but more likely an appreciation of his solo work (Private, Parts & Pieces etc). But, again, I don't really care about this - the guitar playing is just fine. But the playing defines a certain mood, that special Victorian sound which Genesis later combined with the dark British horror stories. Wilson also has a horror story to fuse with this song, a story of an old man who kills his woman after many years of marriage. But when Steven Wilson's really smooth and clean voice sings lines like "though all the cogs connected with such poetic grace, time has left its curse upon this place", it feels too smooth and pathetic - especially when Nick Beggs' similarly clean voice provides the harmonies.


My simple understanding of the development of Wilson's compositions is the following: Wilson's lyrics are stories of human imperfection. Stories which are later set to music and stylistic devices deducted from the (originally alternative and radical) progressive rock genre. The resulting music is then performed flawlessly, technically perfect and strictly according to Wilson's demos. Maybe the songs already determine how the finished album is going to sound before the members of Wilson's band have even gotten to know them.

The first two steps are authentic - everything's alright until here.

But this last step, the way of performing the music, clearly is the major inconsistency between Wilson's approach to music and my personal expectations. As I was standing there during Wilson's Cologne concert, in some moments I waited for some kind of variety, maybe even for some kind of revolution. I asked myself why Wilson doesn't do what all of his heroes did at some time - simply jamming and improvising around occasionally. His whole band would be able to do that. Many Canterbury Scene concerts of the 1970s seemed to be totally spontaneous (especially when Richard Sinclair was involved), with lots of lengthy improvised parts and unexpected guests. King Crimson used to mix up a setlist of strictly composed pieces (such as Fracture) with different jams - some of which ended up in a mess, and some of which proved successful later on. Moments in which one band member just turns around, briefly stops playing and smiles because he's so moved by what another band member plays.

But Wilson's band? It's in top form everyday, doing always the same (carefully set-up) setlist, the same encores, the tracks always in the same length, always professional, always tight, perfect timing. But seldom a moment of intense joy in any musician's face, rarely a cathartic moment, never a song in which the musicians subject themselves to their current feeling, to the feedback of the audience, to the state of mind which the musicians and the listeners share when they decide to spend an evening together in concert.

I don't want to claim that Steven Wilson is an all-dominant band leader. Everyone who has seen Wilson working in the studio with the band or with Akerfeldt finds that he is a pretty cool guy during the sessions. But he is a perfectionist, and the musicians who surround him are more than sufficiently versed in terms of playing abilities to cope with his ideas.

But maybe I still haven't found the key to this kind of music, just like it was the case with Steeleye Span - who I also would have rated 'good, but non-essential' a few years ago. Irrespective of how good this album is, it's quite unlike everything Wilson has conceived before. Instead, it gets closer to The Flower Kings, The Tangent and all the other bands from the retro prog realms. I'll surely give this album (and, of course, the more eccentric Grace for Drowning) more than just a few more spins, but I doubt that The Raven That Refused To Sing will ever enter the top40 of my personal favorite albums - contrary to the top40 of the ProgArchives which it has already entered by now (03.2013), just two mere weeks after its release.

Report this review (#930100)
Posted Thursday, March 14, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars After what appeared to be an ambitious personal 2-CD album, a happier Wilson decided to go deeper into the progressive genre and write fictional stories involving the paranormal.

Luminol might be Wilson's homage to the genre of progressive rock, particularly Yes and King Crimson. You have an energetic overture, extended instrumental acrobatics, retro production, an epic mellotron solo, and so on. What's great about it is that it's very coherent and remains highly interesting throughout its 13 minute duration. Holy Drinker is a fantastic song as well. It opens with a vibrant jazz-fusion jam, leading to the main portion of the song, which has a 70s hard rock vibe with a great usage of mellotron. An ambient, eerie section introduces a hellish heavy metal section with dissonant arrangements. The Watchmaker is my favorite with a storybook structure to it. It emphasizes melody but offers plenty of dynamics to keep it going. The sinister ending may be an acquired taste but I find it essential to the song's balance between light and dark elements.

The shorter songs are of the highest caliber as well. Drive Home might sound familiar, but the melodic choruses and the passionate guitar solo are still highly enjoyable to me. Pin Drop may be short, but it has a powerful drive to it and offers great hooks and instrumental workouts. The moving The Raven That Refuses to Sing is the most minimalistic song in the album and is quite the tearjerker.

It's unbelievable how someone can have the talent to produce music this close to perfection. This album reaches the quality of the finest 70s progressive rock albums.

Report this review (#931168)
Posted Saturday, March 16, 2013 | Review Permalink
2 stars Steven Wilson has finally made a sensible move: he brought in Alan Parsons to produce, his twin soul! You see, Parsons is indeed like Wilson: a good engineer with an ear for production techniques whose stabs at prog music are based solely on imitation of the peers closest to his heart and which all sound more like adult contemporary rather than something as daring as it is sold.

Jokes aside, why does this album exist at all? Wasn't Grace For Drowning enough? I cannot a thing here that is different from it and it all sounds just as pedestrian. And where does it go after "Luminol"? You mean it isn't all one long and boring song like that "Incident" one? Oh hell, at least the cover is nice, if only the contents where as good as it, but then, this is a Steven Wilson album, which means more big names included in it (Parsons) and more promises being made ("It's a collection of ghost stories that evoke writers such as Edgar Allan Poe and Charles Dickens."), all of which amount to nothing at all. By the way, I got way more provoked by Ween's "Spinal Meningitis" or Tool's "Faaip de Oiad" than Wilson's new collection of "ghost stories", all of which are just as infantile as that dreadful "Raider II" from the previous "effort" as much as they are as easy-listening.

Like a reviewer above, I too will resign to try to enjoy even aspects of his work, Steven Wilson's music, attitude and overconfidence bore me and the idea that this guy is keeping prog rock alive disgusts me, pure and simple. Now, excuse me while I grab a Fall CD, I finally understood why Mark E. Smith hates these whiners so much!

Report this review (#931212)
Posted Saturday, March 16, 2013 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
5 stars Steven Wilson is arguably a modern genius of the prog community along with Mikael Akerfeldt, yet when they both came together for the Storm Corrosion project it had little impact on me. Wilson however as a solo artist has become intensely passionate about his music, and his solo albums are incredible masterpieces, especially 'Grace For Drowning' that floored me to the point where I had to obtain the deluxe version. Having to follow up such a brilliant album is not an easy thing but somehow Wilson has done so with a flourish that has heralded in the 2013 year in admirable style. Alan Parsons was on board to engineer this album so one would have to expect a high quality sound and it doesn't disappoint.

The album cover is like a rash all over the net with the astonished moon looming full and iconic in the darkness. The artwork is simple but embeds itself into the conscious easily and thus does its job to gain attention. The rest of the artwork in the Deluxe Version booklet consists of line drawings, some colourful paintings of the dishevelled looking kid in dense locations, a miserable man looking into a beer glass, later drinking a shot, some disturbing scratchy drawings, darkened stairwells and window frames, creepy faces staring out, images of a house, a tree and the scrawny watchmaker at work as his wife looks on, frames from the 'Raven' video clip with snow falling down in the forest, and the shivering old man pursuing the elusive bird. The booklet is extensive and arty as one might expect, and ends with an amusing drawing of the band playing looking like thin men with Wilson headbanging away. The artwork on the CD is the Raven looking mystical and enigmatic, and of course if you did get the Deluxe package you also have a 7 song demo to indulge in and the album in 5.1 sound on a blu ray and a DVD thrown in with all the clips and interviews.

'The Raven That Refused To Sing' has been promoted with film clips hovering about on the internet way before its release date and the film clip images that accompanies the title track are extraordinary. Wilson has reinvented himself again on this album, discarding the darkness of 'Grace For Drowning', and embracing a sound more akin to Porcupine Tree, oddly enough. The title track is masterful, and as it was the first track I heard initially I will start here. It is laced with beautiful keyboards and a pretty melody masking the downbeat lyrics that focus on the man's dead sister, that haunts the storyteller like the raven, and he misses her terribly and dreams of her to return to him; 'Just because I'm weak, You can steal my dreams, You can reach inside my head, And you can put your song there instead.'

Lyrically the poetry in the song has a melancholy edge. The images on the clip of an old man in a forest encountering a raven and then pursuing it finally capturing it and then dying, have a profound symbolic resonance. According to Wilson, the songs have classic Gothic ideas interspersed with suggested dread, regret, loss and the fear of mortality, or impending death, thus the omen of the Raven. It is these ideas that create a very unique atmosphere on the album. The raven essentially becomes, in the mind of the old man, a reincarnation of the old man's dead sister, and in his own delusion he believes if he can capture the raven and hear him sing he can recapture the life of his dead sister. The music is stripped back at times to a piano reverberating in the stillness. Wilson knows how to build on musical ideas and surpasses himself with such tracks, the mesmirising and haunting beauty is superb.

The album opens with 'Luminol' with a delightful pulsating bassline and reverb wah wah guitar splashes. Musically the album is faultless and the flute enhances the quality. There are some wonderful Yes-like multilayered harmonies for a moment and then the extended musical break dominates, with an odd time sig, an intense spectrum of bass, pounding percussion, floating flute, and Mellotron sounds. The electric piano runs have a 70s vibe especially when it builds with a shimmering soundscape, and utilising distortion devices and a ring modulator to good effect. At 4:35 it settles into a minimalist rhythm guitar and Wilson's vocals, in his reflective mood, with references to pop culture, 'the songs he learned from scratched LPs, stops in mid flow to sip his tea.' The lyrics centre on a protagonist who has died even in death continues to discover answers through reminiscing on the past or reflecting on a life that has faded; 'He strums the chords with less than grace, Each passing year etched on his face', is a reflection on how one might feel as we are 'born into a struggle, To come so far but end up returning to dust.' This ghost is a metaphor of fear and our obsession with mortality, according to Wilson in his online interviews.

Wilson doesn't labour on grim themes or death however throughout, and this album has more rays of hope than the shadows of despair found on previous releases, and leaves one with a profound sense of fulfilment. The music is uplifting and energetic, infused with passion throughout and progressive ideas using all the musicians at Wilson's disposal. The flute playing of Theo Travis is exquisite, but I am a real fan of that grinding organ by Adam Holzman, and the way the guitar interplays creating those endearing melodies. 'Luminol' is a masterpiece of the album and a promise of things to come.

Next is 'Drive Home' that opens with a sweet Neo-Classical melody that sounds partially like 'Castle In The Clouds' from 'Les Mesirables'. When Wilson comes in on vocals, the signature locks into a steady measured pace. All is held back like the old days of Porcupine Tree or the 'Deadwing' era. There is a remarkable beauty that emanates from the Mellotrons that sound like violins. The chorus is Wilson at his most melancholy with thought provoking lyrics; 'You need to clear away all the jetsam in your brain, And face the truth, Well love can make amends, While the darkness always ends, You're still alone so drive home.' The instrumental break is stripped back to a nice fingerpicking guitar motif, like Steve Howe, and Travis's achingly beautiful flute is layered over. The lead guitar break of Guthrie Govan that follows is incredible, soaring emotionally and adds so much depth to the overall atmosphere.

'The Holy Drinker' is a glorious throwback to the eclectic prog of vintage King Crimson meets Van der Graaf Generator, with elements of jazz fusion and mind blowing dissonant saxophone blasts. It opens with the wavering keyboard sound heard on Van der Graaf Generator's 'A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers', then breaks into a cacophony of sound like a jazz shop exploded. Theo Travis is master at the sax helm and Wilson is the commander as he constructs this disharmony of musical instruments. I adored this on first listen and it soon became the quintessential track of the album for me. After this outlandish intro, the song finds some semblance of structure and Wilson sings some odd lyrics that I don't want to think about too deeply; 'With shaking hands and blackened heart, The glass he pours, this time it's also the last, In rapt communion with himself, The Holy Drinker is going straight in to hell.' On cue the song breaks into extended soloing with some wonderful organ and chirping flute taking centre stage. I love how the organ has that Keith Emerson 'Tarkus' sound at 6:25, but a special mention goes to the sporadic drumming of Marco Minnemann and Bass of Nick Beggs that are always on target and played to perfection. The song settles into Wilson's echoing gentle voice at about 8 minutes in, but it feels ominous as though the jazz fusion will break out at any moment. Then a grinding Van der Graaf Generator organ sound growls viciously with a downbeat tone, joined by odd rhythmic guitars. This feels like the coda of VDGG's 'White Hammer' and it is ferociously off kilter enough to jar the senses to their most awakened state. AlI in all a furious blast of masterful music and one to seek out for those interested in checking out the best on the album.

Thus far the album is astonishing, nothing less than brilliant prog, so I was looking forward to the next half. 'The Pin Drop' is the shortest song at 5.03, and has Wilson on his highest register tone singing; 'Carried away by the river that passes through bulrushes on to the sea, Dragged by the current to rest on the stakes of the breakwater shaded by trees, Beginnings and endings, love intersecting a rift that will break us apart.' The return of the sax is so welcome, and Travis lifts off with massive runs and haunting squeals of jazz ecstasy. The song moves into a Twilight Zone like atmosphere melodically, and feels again like vintage Porcupine Tree. The layered harmonies are exceptional and create a wall of sound, and all is augmented by the accomplished lead guitar solo of Govan. All this in 5 minutes, simply incredible work from Mr Wilson.

'The Watchmaker' is another of the album's epics, and showcases Wilson's poetry in the lyrics; 'The watchmaker buries something deep within his thoughts, A shadow on the staircase of someone from before, This thing is broken now and cannot be repaired, Fifty years of compromise and aging bodies shared, Eliza dear, you know there's something I should say, I never really loved you but I'll miss you anyway.' The music is appropriately like a music box chiming, very Gabriel-era Genesis in fact, and is enhanced by dreamy flute embellishments. There is a glorious lead guitar solo, perhaps the best on the album with Govan taking on speedy licks effortlessly and the squeaky sax joins in and it suddenly reminds me of Pink Floyd. The song takes on a new format then with piano runs and Wilson's voice emanating thoughts of the Watchmaker who reminisces on a dark deed involving the murder of his wife who has returned from the grave; 'But for you I had to wait, Until one day it was too late.' The music and harmonies become more romantically intertwined utilising old school 'do do do's' and then finally it breaks out into an odd time sig and some glistening piano sparkles, a booming bass solo reminding me of Rush's Geddy Lee. Finally the next phase of the music becomes dissonant with weird off tones in a 7/8 meter, being used where they should not, creating a disquieteing effect. This is a complex piece of music and perhaps the darkest track on the whole album, more like the 'Grace For Drowning' themes than others on offer.

It ends of course with the beauty of 'The Raven That Refused To Sing' and we are left with an astonishing album of dark haunting power as only Wilson knows how to create. This is certainly a different creature than 'Grace For Drowning' and did not impact me like that masterpiece, and yet this latest release is mesmerising on every listen. It is an album to listen to with unwavering focus, as is all of Wilson's work; music designed for headphones. It is hard to rate this album as everything is so well placed and perfect; Wilson throws in so many ideas that it is impossible not to enjoy this if your ears are attuned to experimental progressive ideas. It did not measure up to 'Grace For Drowning' for me, but still is a masterful album presented in a compact form of less than an hour. If you want more, the Deluxe version is ample enough though did not add that much musically, but more artistically. The experience is sheer joy when an album comes out that embraces all that is great about prog. The sax, the organ, the lead guitars, the rhythms; all are played to perfection. Wilson's voice is faultless and his ideas are poetically conveyed to precision.

Perhaps it is too perfect and too calculating for some listeners and I can understand how this can be off putting, and why it has received mixed critical reactions. However, Wilson is nothing short of passionate about his music and every note is placed to generate a congenial effect to enhance the overall experience. This is a series of stories, as the album titles states, and each story has its own atmosphere and style though there is a consistency in the thematic juxtaposition of music and vocals. It is a far superior album to some of the earlier Porcupine Tree albums and indeed Wilson's debut solo. I would rank it easily among his greatest triumphs, and certainly it is going to be one of the albums of the year. An album this bold and inventive deserves full recommendation and thus far it is the best release in 2013, so 5 shining stars to a modern musical genius that continues to produce prog at its highest caliber.

Report this review (#934550)
Posted Sunday, March 24, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars This record is phenomenal! The band that is assembled here is nothing short of incredible. Guthrie Govan is one of the greatest guitarists on the planet. Check him out on YouTube. I defy you not to smile while watching this guy play. Marco Minneman's percussion brings an energy and precision that really punctuates the complexity of these songs. Theo Travis' woodwinds lend an air of sophistication and beauty that are breathtaking. I was not as familiar with Nick Beggs or Adam Holzman, but both are excellent players in their own right.

The strength of the album though, is really in the songs themselves. Wilson takes you on quite the journey. Starting with the energetic "Luminol" which moves through several moods before coming back to a high energy finish. "Drive Home" is probably the most reminiscent of Porcupine Tree and has lush strings and a wonderful guitar solo at the end. "The Holy Drinker" is dark and heavy and kind of reminds me of early 'King Crimson' at times. The players really show their skills on this one. "The Pin Drop" has a lilting melody for the first verse, then a crashing and up tempo "chorus". I love the alternate melody for the second verse. Another great solo by Govan. "The Watchmaker" has a 'Genesis" feel to it, starting off with a quiet melody over 12 string guitar. The song builds in intensity, has a very nice flute solo and then a mind blowing guitar/ sax solo interplay. Wow! A very nice layered vocal over acoustic piano section follows, and then a very dark finish. Wonderful lyrics on this one as well. "The Raven That Refused To Sing" is just stunning with its haunting melody and understated playing. Very nice finish to a very strong effort.

The production is fantastic with Alan Parsons at the engineering helm, and Wilson's ear for detail in control of the mix. Everything is clear and in its perfect place and balance.

The album is not "perfect", but it certainly has the goose bump factor. It strikes that perfect balance that I looked for in the early days, between mastery of the individual instruments, and attention to composition. The players are all great, but the songs are the focal point.

Report this review (#934676)
Posted Sunday, March 24, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars Like Grace for Drowning, The Raven that Refused to sing finds Steven Wilson exploring a range of old-school prog textures and sounds, but this time around I think I can detect a few more influences creeping in from Porcupine Tree's indie rock-influenced phase (the triptych of Stupid Dream, Lightbulb Sun, Recordings), particularly on the plaintive (but overlong and kind of irritating) Drive Home. The sessions were engineered by Alan Parsons, but I don't really feel that this adds much to the album - Wilson's projects are usually impeccably engineered whatever name they issue under and I'm inclined to wonder whether Parsons' involvement is solely for the nostalgia-baiting name recognition factor - but the album itself nicely develops on Grace for Drowning, mellowing its King Crimson-esque fusion jam sessions with more tranquil and gentle phases. I don't think it's the glorious pillar of modern prog some paint it as, but it's not awful - just kind of, well, there.
Report this review (#934751)
Posted Sunday, March 24, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars After reading the overwhelmingly positive reviews for Raven, I knew it would be a disservice to avoid for too long. My local record store had the CD in stock, and although the 2-disc version is probably the better value, I bought it on the spot. Immediately apparent is Steven Wilson's attention to detail and penchant for quality; the album is lovingly packaged in a heavy-duty jewel case with slip sleeve, pressed on beautifully silkscreened Optimal Media, and includes all the lyrics and accompanying artwork. You can tell Wilson is very proud of The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories), though the contents don't quite live up to the lavish packaging. Wilson has assembled an amply capable cast to bring Raven to fruition, and his backing band (which also toured Grace For Drowning) screams "session musicians" from the outset. The opening faux-aggression of "Luminol" briskly traverses multiple stylistic and tempo changes, all easily handled by the players as they seemingly go through the motions. Wilson's voice does the track no favors, while the heavy-handed Mellotron sounds likewise out of place. Luckily, the album improves as it goes, and in some cases enormously so.

I'd previously heard a couple of Porcupine Tree albums but this is my first experience with Steven Wilson's solo material. My initial impression of the album after hearing only "Luminol" was corporate rock of the worst sort - professionally played and recorded - but lacking muscle and genuine emotion; it actually reminded me of (gulp) Collective Soul or something. "Drive Home" is miles better...perhaps a bit too Floydian at times but overall a vast improvement. "The Holy Drinker" revisits the heavy tone of the album's opener, and to its detriment. The modern synths and heavily processed guitars just don't suit the album's retro aesthetic, and even the beloved Mellotron sticks out like a sore thumb. Heavy Prog/Tech/Prog Metal fans will probably eat this up but I'll take a pass. The brief "Pin Drop" leaves me indifferent as an anemic waltz builds to an anthemic climax and repeats. I can go no further without acknowledging the jaw-dropping contribution of Marco Minnemann: This guy is an absolute freak of mammoth proportions, flailing and walloping the drumset with inhuman precision, in many cases saving the goings-on and offering something constantly interesting to hear regardless of the accompaniment.

"The Watchmaker" is the best song yet, and you get the sense by this point that the album is crafted to grow as it elapses. I've heard Raven about 25 times now and appreciate the emotional crescendo it offers, I just wish it didn't take so long to get to the good stuff. "The Watchmaker" is not only a compositional and lyrical achievement, but a technical one as well; the production is very, very good...almost to a fault. Though I acknowledge and deeply respect Alan Parson's contributions to rock history, I almost feel like his mastery of studio wizardry and sonic clarity achieve the opposite of the intended effect; Raven sounds a little too polished for its own good, and the slick production does not necessarily suit the genre of music to which it pays homage. That can all be overlooked however as the album draws to a close: "The Raven That Refused To Sing" is easily the best song on its namesake, and by quite a comfortable margin. The song is so good that all the previous tracks pale in comparison, and sound kind of weak next to "Raven." The track is a moving, humanistic experience - beautiful and touching, concise yet sprawling, and nearly perfect. Obviously all serious progressive rock fans will want to acquire the album this year as it is shaping up to be the best of 2013...for me personally it is a very good effort plagued by some questionable choices early in the album sequence.

Report this review (#934915)
Posted Sunday, March 24, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Well then, I didn't purchase this CD but my youngest son did, and it has been a grower for me. First listen - I was mildly impressed, but with each subsequent spin, it's been getting better and better. The influences are quite apparent here as Steve lifts bits from Watcher of the Skies and Anyway, and more subtle nods to mid seventies Genesis apparent all over the show. This is nostalgia, it captures the softer (often described as feminine?) parts of the Genesis style from 1970-76...It also has some excellent musicianship - a killer guitar solo in the second track especially catches my ear. Some nice use of flute - but he allows the sax evil in too, not fond but I tolerate it on this CD but it definately takes it out of the 5 star rating for me. if he replaces with guitar/synth solo - I'd be a happier man...anyway, the first four tracks are solid but then come the tracks that make this CD worth having. The watchmaker is excellent and very reminscent of Foxtrot/Nursery Cryme Genesis. then the title track!!! - What a sublime melody, that reaches parts of my psyche and makes the hairs stand to attention.....Only, STEVE this is a prog rock CD - EXTEND the track - explore the magnificent melody - get in a MONSTER guitar solo...if this track had been extended out to 15-20 mins - what a statement Wilson would have made...instead I feel that his commercial thirst has again stifled his true potential..... I have re-considered, this has definitely grown on me - I even like the Sax. Still think that the title track's superb melody could have been explored - but I'm up-grading this to a five star, because it's grown on me a LOT!!!
Report this review (#936433)
Posted Thursday, March 28, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars I continue to be amazed by the claims that Steven Wilson is a genius. This latest offering, I had been led to believe would blow me away with epic music of the highest order. I quite like what is on offer and it has improved after repeated listens. The quality of music is impressive even though chaotic jazz sounds make me want to switch off. I enjoy "Luminol" after the first 4mins or so unlike other reviewers, "Drive home" is pleasant, I quite enjoy "Pindrop" which would sit well as a porcupine tree track, "The watchmaker" has some fine and also annoying moments and the title track is well crafted and emotional. The "Holy drinker" could have been an interesting track but has too many annoying moments. On the whole I am pleased that I own this CD but I am not sure how many listens it will take before it becomes tired in my ears. I will give this 4 stars for many reasons and believe it is a worthwhile listen but I still feel that it is a case of the emperors new clothes. As a birthday present I also received psychanorexia by "t" and I have been drawn towards this epic on a more regular basis.
Report this review (#937231)
Posted Saturday, March 30, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Although following up a record as masterful as 2011's Grace For Drowning is no easy feat, the multi-talented Steven Wilson has managed to craft yet another stunning masterpiece with The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories). Released in early 2013, Wilson's third solo observation follows a progressive rock template similar to that of Grace For Drowning, but it sounds like a decidedly more band-oriented effort. Wilson has recruited an all-star lineup to complete his vision on The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories), featuring Guthrie Goven on guitar, Nick Beggs on bass, Marco Minnemann on drums, Adam Holzman on keyboards, and Theo Travis on saxophone and flute. It gives Raven a vastly different feel from its guest-dominated predecessor, and while the album should not sound foreign to anybody well-versed in progressive rock, it sports a fresh sound distinct from Wilson's other offerings.

The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories) is largely an exploration of classic progressive rock, perhaps in a more symphonic vein than anything Wilson has ever done - the lengthy, fusion jams in Grace For Drowning are replaced by more concise instrumental portions, and a few alternative touches in the vein of Porcupine Tree sneak their way into the mix, particularly in the goosebump-inducing title track and the surreal "Drive Home". That isn't to say that Raven is without killer fusion sections - the firey solos in "Luminol" and the the strangely funky opening to "The Holy Drinker" immediately discredit that notion - but the focus this time around is more on tight band dynamics, rather than long fusion jams reminiscent of seventies' King Crimson.

Whether or not that's a good thing ultimately depends on the listener; personally, I find both Grace For Drowning and Raven to be stunning masterpieces for different reasons. Tracks like the fusion-influenced "Luminol" and the wonderfully symphonic "The Watchmaker" stand as some of the finest songs in Wilson's vast catalogue, and the rest of the album is equally impressive. A fine example of a record with "all killer, no filler", Raven remains strongly engaging throughout its full duration thanks to an abundance of captivating hooks and flawless execution. Though Wilson has worked with plenty of great musicians over the years, the ensemble here is possibly his finest to date. Similarly to Frank Zappa's definitive lineups, the group chemistry here is remarkable - Nick Beggs and Marco Minnemann make for one of the most dynamic rhythm sections in modern prog, and the strong lead instrumentalists (particularly Guthrie Goven's tremendous fretwork) make for an album that is as pleasing aesthetically as it is compositionally.

As expected from anything Steven Wilson touches, the production is held to strict audiophile standards and is given a balanced, powerful mix. Industry veteran Alan Parsons was also brought along to engineer the album, and whilst Wilson would've been capable of doing a tremendous job without assistance, it's cool to hear him collaborating with a talented artist that was undoubtedly influential in his formative years.

One could certainly criticize The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories) for being too faithful to the sound of classic seventies' progressive rock, but I think that Wilson's ability to stay within the confines of the genre while still maintaining a strong sense of style and originality is one of the album's finest assets. In my opinion at least, Raven is a deeply emotional masterpiece from start to finish that will likely be a contender for album of the year 2013 for many listeners. Although the future of Porcupine Tree remains uncertain, this album is proof that Steven Wilson won't be falling off the radar anytime soon!

Report this review (#938275)
Posted Monday, April 1, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars I really love this album. This must be the best thing that happened to me this year related to progressive rock, right next to my discovery of Opeth.

One of the things I really love about this album is the emotions. I think that I have never heard an album so densely packed with emotions. This tops in The title song "The Raven That Refused To Sing". It almost make me cry every time i listen to it and it have now become one of my favorite songs of all time.

The biggest complain I have seen about this album is that it have all been done before. That is partly true. But isn't almost all recent prog rock something we have heard before? For som reason neo-prog dosn't feel as much as a ripoff as this album. It is true that a lot of the album sounds very familiar and is often used classic prog ideas. But I have never seen it done as good as this. The way SW does it on this album is overwhelming. It is hard to describe but everything just works perfect almost evry time. I think that a lot of it is pretty innovative too. Like the icredible bass from the intro of "Luminol", Wilson's overly emotional vocals in the intro "The Pin Drop" and the amazing solo in "Drive home". The best solo i have heard in a very long time. But the song that surprised me the most was the of "The Holy Drinker". Suddenly i hear influences from grunge of the 90s or something like that. I have never heard that in progressive rock before. On top of that I could always here SW in the music. It has his sound.

Every song of this album is something special. I can't deny that almost every song on this album has some small parts wich i don't like. But they are so heavely outweighed by the all the other exstremely fantastic parts, that i have to give "The Raven That Refused To sing" a five out of five.

I love this album.

Report this review (#938514)
Posted Tuesday, April 2, 2013 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
5 stars 'The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)' - Steven Wilson (9/10)

Although Porcupine Tree wasn't exactly a band known for narrow scope or resistance to experimenting, I've always appreciated Steven Wilson's choice to release some of his music as a solo career. Not only has it let him collaborate with a much wider range of musicians, it also frees listeners from many of the preconceptions they may have about his flagship band. As a result, Wilson's three solo albums to date have enjoyed a greater sense of risk and daring than much of Porcupine Tree's regular material. "Insurgentes" was impressive for its experimental nature and inclusive variety, and "Grace for Drowning" fleshed out the ambition with everything from finely crafted pop tunes to explosive jazz fusion. As with the last two, I don't think that "The Raven That Refused To Sing" would have struck such a note with me if it had been released under the Porcupine Tree banner. Although Wilson's staple production and flair for the melancholic are here in no short order, he takes this opportunity as a way to put a focus on his instrumental side that hasn't been often seen before in his career, solo or otherwise. The resulting focus on jazzy band dynamics and progressive rock tradition makes "Raven..." Steven's least varied but most focused solo effort to date. Also, it's a concept album, and that's pretty cool too.

On "Grace for Drowning", one of the most peculiar tracks was the behemothic "Raider II", a twenty three minute, largely instrumental monster, taking King Crimson-esque rock musicianship and jazz-based improvisations together in equal measure. On my initial experience with it when the album came out in 2011, I interpreted it as a bold declaration that the work of Steven's solo career was a conscious step away from his Porcupine Tree material. Now, I see it more as a predecessor and hint of what was to come on this album. Although Wilson gives longtime fans a dose of the classic PT sound with tracks like "The Pin Drop" and the cinematic title track, a great deal of "The Raven That Refused To Sing" focuses itself in on that prog fusion instrumentation. Whether it's a meticulously calibrated passage, or a mellow interplay between the piano and rhythm section, "Raven..." transposes Wilson's genius for composition into a realm that he has never dedicated himself so fervently towards.

Possibly the greatest thing about "Raven..." is not even necessarily Wilson's writing and arrangement, but the musicians that he has chosen to surround himself with. More than ever, it feels like Wilson has fashioned himself a progressive rock conductor of sorts, letting some of the best musicians in the scene bring his vision to life. Most notably, Wilson brings on two thirds of the virtuosic fusion band The Aristocrats. Guthrie Govan (guitars) and Marco Minnemann (drums) are each masters of their respective instruments. Of the musicians involved however, the top accolades go to keyboardist Adam Holzman, arguably best known for work he has done with Miles Davis. Especially on "Luminol", his jazz improvisations are rich with detail, and his firm background in the jazz genre gives Wilson's music a different sound than it has had in the past. Steven Wilson's voice seems to be a love-or-hate-it case for many people. There is certainly a lesser emphasis on vocal melodies this time around, but his voice retains the same emotional depth I have come to expect. His overdubbed vocal harmonies are some of the best I've ever heard.

Although it's certainly not the first time Wilson has done this, "The Raven That Refused To Sing" enjoys its status as a concept album. As the longform title implies, each of the songs here tells a different story, each about ghosts and an idealized notion of lost love. Of these, "The Holy Drinker" tells the most interesting story, about an alcoholic evangelist that plays a drinking game with Satan (spoiler: it doesn't end well). This dark subject matter is reflected musically by a constant exchange between catchy vocal segments and dark heavy instrumentation. "The Pin Drop" is another interesting piece, distancing itself from the album's lean towards longform instrumentation in favour of a more Porcupine Tree-esque song that seems to beg for 'single' status. Without a doubt however, the greatest piece on the album is the gut-wrenching title track and closing piece. "The Raven That Refused To Sing" (the song) is as haunting as Wilson's music gets. An eerie, filmscore-sounding piano piece plays under pensive vocals and ghostly synths. By the end of the song, it has built itself up to a thunder that hits the heart in a place only the best sort of music can hope to reach. To make it better, a fantastic music video was made for it that fits its ghostly subject matter wonderfully- well worth checking out, if you ask me.

With the legendary Alan Parsons (whom you may know as the engineer for "Dark Side of the Moon") coming onboard to help on the production side of things, it's little surprise that "Raven..." is about as close tor recording perfection as one can get. Even during the album's most harrowing moments, every instrument comes through in full dimension, and are balanced with a mix that gods might praise. Despite this refined sense of calibration, the album retains a warmth and organic appeal that echoes many of the very same artists Steven Wilson has been influenced by on the record. While the classics of progressive rock are present in spirit here (with King Crimson taking the front seat on most occasions), many passages on "The Raven That Refused To Sing" sound very much like Wilson is also paying tribute to some of the more contemporary progressive artists he loves. There are many times on the album- particularly on the fiery groove of "Luminol"- where Steven Wilson sounds as if he's conjuring the style and scope of The Mars Volta. The lush title track begins as were it a Radiohead piece, but it eventually bursts into a life-affirming climax that instantly brings Anathema to mind. This mix of the old and new feels very natural given Wilson's tastes, and though the homages are often noticeable, no one influence ever takes over completely. With this being said, "The Raven That Refused To Sing" is widely defined by this sense of 'tribute' to other artists. In the past, many of Steven Wilson's bands and albums have had a staunch sense of personal identity and style. Here, Steven's voice is as distinctive as ever, but the instrumentation lacks that uniqueness and personal style that first made him part of the prog rock elite. Don't get me wrong; the music is excellent, but it keeps the album from having that life-altering 'wow' effect that struck me so much on "Grace for Drowning" and some of his Porcupine Tree albums.

Steven Wilson's solo material has proven itself worthy to the point where I may be more excited for another album under his own name than something by his flagship band. Like Mikael Akerfeldt should have done when releasing "Heritage", the distancing from the name and style Wilson is largely known for has opened up so many new doors. With "The Raven That Refused To Sing", Steven has tried out something new and unexpected, fusing many of his favourite artists into something intelligent, classic and as musically proficient as a listener could hope for. Although it may not be the career-topping opus that "Grace for Drowning" turned out to be, this latest outing from Wilson doesn't show any signs of the multi-instrumentalist showing down. As a lifelong fan of Wilson's music, I can only hope for more of the same quality in the future.

Report this review (#939041)
Posted Wednesday, April 3, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars For the past few years, Steven Wilson has kind of got on my nerves a bit. I myself would say I am a pretty big Porcupine Tree fan and have been for a good few years. For about 10 years, they have created a large amount of prog classics and front man Steven Wilson was

So when Steven Wilson made a solo album, he kind of got a bit of a god complex. Of course, everything he does is generally well received, but when Insurgents came out, it was almost like he went "They love me...THEY LOVE ME!" (Emphasis on me).

So being a bit of a narcissist, he decided to put Porcupine Tree on hold while he basks in the success of his solo career, leaving the other members of Porcupine Tree...on the dole...I think.

So after an alright 1st album, he released Grace For Drowning, a 2 disc self indulgent jazz odyssey. Again...rather good. Then came Storm Corrosion, a project he made with Mikael Adkerfeldt. Again...some good moments, but in all fairness, reeked of pretension, self indulgence, and a problem Steven has to contain a little, and that problem is post modern tributes to his idols.

So..does this album suffer from Stevens past mistakes. At times yes, but as an artist should do, he is experimenting with different stuff now and then. In fact...the best thing to do is to make something that's rather unique, which can be heard on this album. At times, influences can be heard and brought forward,

Another thing Steven was able to do on this album was perfect the art of songwriting. Yes, you know...songs...with words and meanings and all that stuff.

Also, one of the things I really love about this album is the storytelling element each song has. It reminded me of the old concept album days of Porcupine Tree, where the lyrics took you into little storytelling worlds.

Musically, the album see's an almost super group line up, which made me wonder..."why not keep this as a supergroup and have the album released under a moniker." But...I guess Stevens personality will sell the album enough.

1. Luminol ? When I heard the opening of this song I was rather surprised. This is the side of Steven Wilson that I think he's been missing the past few years. The more rhythmic and upbeat side. Packed with instrumental craziness, with some amazing flute work from Theo Travis and spectacular drumming from Marco Minneman. Lyrics are pretty interesting too, although I do feel it goes on a bit too long length wise. 9/10

2. Drive Home ? One of my favourite songs on the album. I always love it when Steve does a ballad. Now and then they do have a similar vein, but this one is pretty killer. The guitar solo at the end is probably the highlight, with some very Gilmore esque lead moments. 10/10

3. The Holy Drinker ? At times a bit too much like King Crimson, but...there is no King Crimson anymore, so this is a welcoming tribute. Some interesting lyrics with some nice musical moments throughout, especially with the instrumentation and the crazy saxophone playing. 9/10

4. The Pin Drop ? One of my favourite songs on the album. If Steven's solo stuff sounded a lot more like this, I would listen to his stuff a lot more. A very odd paced song with some impressive vocals from Steven. It's a listen to beheld, that's all I can say. Very unique. 10/10

5. The Watchmaker ? A very odd song that I'm actually incredibly impressed with. At the start, it seems to be a ballad but as it goes on, it gets a lot more musically interesting. Nice lyrics as well, and Stevens vocals are beautifully presented. The ending is pretty kick ass and rather surprising as well. 10/10

6. The Raven That Refused To Sing ? The albums crowning moment and maybe even Steven's greatest achievement to date (especially solo wise). When Storm Corrosion was coming out, I actually expected the music in some way to almost sound like this song...but sadly I was slightly let down. A beautiful song and an epic way to end an album. Also, check out the music video for this song as well. Nice little bit of animation for ya. 10/10

CONCLUSION: So Steven Wilson has finally made a solo album I'm happy with. I'm impressed. All the reasons I like him are in this album. He finally did it. I will no longer make fun of him anymore (I will, just not as much). I will gladfully not judge him anymore and will await his next release with glee.


Report this review (#939194)
Posted Thursday, April 4, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars A triumph of mastery over essence.

The album The Raven That Refused To Sing is another curious derivative of classic prog, which is not something I wanted to hear. This quality of the album just bugs me. That's right: this time there is less of Steven Wilson and more of King Crimson and Dream Theater. Plus, the very chemistry of the ghost-story concept, classic symph-jazz prog influences, and elements of alt-rock does not seem to digest very well for me. Also, it is my belief that if Steve wanted to bring excitement and conceptual depth together, he could do better. As per the widely and wildly acclaimed musicianship, I think the guys are just playing it safe too often. I can see very little of true creativity on the part of the crew. But hey, it's all pretty much under the command of one man.

In other news: I don't think coherence and musical concision are too much to ask for. "Luminol" has quite the instrumental drive along with an amazing introduction to the track, but, as it often goes in prog, this kind of music is out of place on this album with the ghost-story concept. This statement of incompatibility especially applies to the 12-minute "The Watchmaker". This leaves a feeling as if Steve was performing a role of a track framework writer, not that of a focused songwriter.

However, the The Raven does show that Wilson has finally matured as a songwriter. He knows what the word "melody" means ("Drive Home" is a good example of that). Also, the lyrical approach has improved significantly. No more vague songs about familiar feelings. Half the songs on the album have a few neat lines. "The words he sings are not his own. They speak of things he'll never know." I find that interesting. But it is the last two tracks that hit the spot for me. Though Steve relies too much on the atmosphere to keep me on my toes, as a songwriter he succeeds in all the other respects, forging somewhat clever and straightforward statements. The rest of the lyrical work on the album does not excite me at all.

The picky creep Dayvenkirq thinks that your prog collection can live without this album for the reasons I've mentioned before. However, some things are still worth attention. I do appreciate the effort Mr. Wilson put into this album. That said, I cannot recommend this album to anyone other than the people who enjoy solid-to-just-nice lyrical moments and decent instrumental work.

This is how The Raven gets three stars from me. I think this is a very fair rating considering what a strange idea it is to have an album with some decent musical ideas and almost solid lyrical work, but featuring influences from other big names of prog when you expect Steven Wilson to be on the record.

Report this review (#940451)
Posted Sunday, April 7, 2013 | Review Permalink
Tony R
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars A Masterpiece Of Modern Progressive Music

Steven Wilson put Porcupine Tree on what seemed like permanent hiatus in 2011 and many fans were upset at the prospect of Steven's diversion into the solo path he started with Insurgentes. That album and Grace For Drowning were stirling efforts, with Wilson honing his prog chops steadily and absorbing the influences gained from re-mastering some classic Crimson and Tull albums.

Then along comes The Raven That Refused To Sing (and other stories) brim full of the kind of confidence that critical success and fan worship brings. A settled band in place, Wilson reaches for the stars and delivers a masterpiece that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the classics of the genre. Every one of the six tracks on this album delivers, melding consumate musicianship with beautifully judged songwriting.

I'm not going to analyse each track because they are all a tour-de-force in their own way. Beggs, Minnemann, Holzman, Travis and especially Govan bring Wilson's artistry to life with ensemble playing that matches any Prog could muster since its inception. Truly a spellbinding experience all kept together by the master conductor, Wilson. If he keeps creating masterpieces like this Porcupine Tree will be just a pleasant memory, the hors d'oevres to a stellar career.

I'm astonished at some of the negativety directed towards this album, and Wilson himself. This is a genuine top class modern piece of progessive music setting the bar against which others must now be measured. Quite possibly the best progressive music album in the last 40 years. Yeah, it's that good!

Highly recommended. 10/10

Report this review (#942007)
Posted Wednesday, April 10, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Raven That Refused to Sing ― an album that I refused to listen for a long time. Actually I am not a Steven Wilson/Porcupine Tree (or other SW projects) guy, I mean Wilson is likely to be the most overrated musician in the prog world and I've been a little frustrated about this. Nevertheless, resistance is futile for some reasons, and I've decided to listen it for a time ago with very little expectations. However something really strange was happened: I've liked the album. Yes, Wilson finally did it, he really achieves a great album. Although the record generally sounds like a typical Wilson album, Marco Minnemann and Guthrie Govan bring an outstanding energy that makes the album different from other Wilson records. The heavy fusion beginning of the album, I mean the first part of the Luminol makes a great start, but I've to say the song also goes well all along. Drive home, the second song, is an incredible ballad that impress me so deeply. I'd like to say that I've never thought SW can compose such a ballad. The Holy Drinker and The Watchmaker are also great song, but particularly the last part of the The Holy Drinker, that is the part that contains the catchy lick and great orchestration, and the first part of the The Watchmaker, the part that makes me cry every time I listen, may be the on the top of the SW music. The Pin Drop and The Raven That Refused to Sing are a bit weaker songs than others. To sum up, this is really a good record, that is one of the best albums in the last years in the prog world: 8.5/10
Report this review (#943204)
Posted Saturday, April 13, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars After the hype his album had received, and for my love of Porcupine Tree, I had to give in and get this album. Needless to say I was not disappointed. One thing I've always enjoyed about Steven Wilson with his work in Porcupine Tree was that they were never musically stagnant, that is to say they went through a number of periods or eras, starting off with the psychedelic leanings of Pink Floyd, but eventually progressing through periods of pop, alternative, and metal inspired music. This album keeps with this trend, where Wilson explores a more jazzy and symphonic sound. The biggest thing I noticed off the bat was the unmistakable classic prog sound and influence, especially King Crimson. That is to say the album is drenched in mellotron to lend it that more symphonic feel, but also has harder- edged guitar with some darker moments to give it a King Crimson feel. Nonetheless, the album is truly an original adventure for Wilson and company, with each and every member contributing his unique sound to the record.

The album opens on a high note with 'Luminol.' This is a rather diverse track, starting with the energetic opening filled with killer bass riffs and pounding drums. But this segues into a gentler, atmospheric section with some guitar, flute, and Steven's vocals. The following piano solo has a very jazzy and relaxing feel to it. The final few minutes is a crescendo of mellotron and infallible musicianship that yields a very symphonic and dramatic feel, something for which there is much of in this album.

Drive Home is another great song which I view in two main parts. The first few minutes is a very melodic section with piano and vocals from Steven. Again, the mellotron is great here, and provides a very symphonic and dramatic atmosphere. The latter half of the song is perhaps one of the best guitars solos I have ever heard. Goven certainly brought something special to the album, and this is proof. The solo ends the song on a very, tense and uneasy, yet inspirational note with his impeccably emotional playing.

The Holy Drinker is another rather diverse song with an overall darker mood. The opening is quite chaotic before settling down into a nice melody. There a plenty of metal riffs throughout similar to Porcupine tree, which contribute to the songs harder, darker edge. The saxophone and flute work is also noteworthy.

'The Pin Drop' may be the weakest song on the record, but may also be least derivative of classic prog, mainly taking on a more alternative sound Porcupine Tree are often known for.

'The Watcher' is another lengthy song filled with twists and turns. The opening section is serene with acoustic guitar, some clean electric guitar, mellotron, and Wilson's vocals. But of course, the tune picks up a more chaotic edge around four minutes in, filled with flute and sax wandering over a cool riff, before returning to the more stable style of the beginning, and ultimately ending in a dark dramatic fashion.

The final song couldn't be a more perfect closer to the album. The title track is simply a masterpiece, beautifully simple, and emotionally evocative. It is sad, yet encouraging. Everything is perfectly in place, from the gentle piano and vocals to the dramatic mellotron chords. It is best just sit back and let it paint a picture in your mind.

As I've mentioned, I am very impressed by this release. In my opinion this gives even In Absentia, Deadwing, and Anesthetize a run for their money. One would think after all of his genius in Porcupine Tree, Wison would have run out of ideas, but as evidenced he still has enough to create one of the most exciting and emotionally powerful albums of modern prog.


Report this review (#947052)
Posted Saturday, April 20, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars Because of Steven Wilson's (relative) popularity as a modern progressive artist, it's almost inevitable that The Raven that Refused to Sing will become the biggest prog album of 2013. The reception so far has been resoundingly positive, as I would expect, and while I can't agree with all the praise that has been heaped on this release so far, this is still definitely a solid modern prog album. It might not do anything radically different, but it's still well worth the investment (if you don't have it already, of course).

First of all, the musicianship here is really, really good. This isn't a collection of highly skilled session musicians, as on Wilson's previous two solo efforts, but a genuine band (with incredible chemistry). Marco Minnermann proves himself to be an absolute beast on the drums: precise, versatile, and very, very skilled. His work combines with Nick Beggs's incredible bass playing to form a powerhouse rhythm section (just listen to the first few minutes of Luminol). Guthrie Govan and Adam Holzman each contribute some amazing solos on guitar and keys (respectively), and though Theo Travis's work on flute and sax doesn't always jump out quite as much as the others, I'm always glad to hear it.

Of course, musicianship is of no consequence if the compositions aren't of high quality. And for the most part, they are. Even if the tracks aren't perfectly constructed, they are all (at a minimum) very memorable. The sections of ambient noise that plagued his previous two albums are gone. The strongest one, by far, is the closing title track. Ironically, despite all the good things I've said about the musicianship, this song features the sparsest instrumentation on the album. But this actually works to its advantage. The simple accompaniment serves to accentuate the wonderful lyrics (about an old man remembering his sister who died when he was very young) and Steven's perfect, emotional delivery. Indeed, this song does a better job of conveying sheer sadness than nearly any other I have heard. That's a very strong statement, I admit, but I'm sticking by it.

The other songs can't hope to match the greatness of the closer, but they're still pretty strong. The only issue I have is that, while they certainly all have enough ideas to keep the listener engaged from point A to point B, Wilson's songs simply don't always fit together all that well. Take 'Luminol,' for example. After the opening, jazzy, bass led section, we have a quiet vocal part, then a mellotron solo, then a piano solo, and finally a fast, guitar led section to close things out. The playing is great, of course, but I'm still at a loss as to how the different sections relate to each other, or how anything but the main vocal bit relates to the song's central theme (of a man who continues playing songs on the street after death takes him). It does keep me engaged for twelve minutes (and I enjoy it, I really do!), but the composition just doesn't make any logical sense. Thankfully, the construction of the other long tracks' 'The Holy Drinker' and 'The Watchmaker'' while still nowhere near perfect, exhibits much less of this problem, and the shorter tracks are almost totally immune. Other than the closing 'Raven,' 'Drive Home,' with its irresistible vocal melody in the first half, and breathtaking guitar break in the second, is the best constructed thing on the album, even if it doesn't try to do anything particularly ambitious. As a matter of fact, this was the song that drew me in before any of the others, and it's not hard to see why. Give it a listen, and just see if you can get that chorus out of your head. Bet you can't.

Despite its flaws, with The Raven that Refused to Sing, Steven Wilson has created an album which is a clear improvement over the two which precede it. His lyrics and singing, in particular, have matured to the point where he can give a convincing, emotional performance of any lyric deserving such a performance (like in the closing song). The fact that he has a genuine band around him instead of a collection of high profile session musicians helps immeasurably as well. This doesn't really feel like a solo album as much as a band album. In the end, The Raven might not be perfect, but there's enough high quality material on here for me to recommend it.

Report this review (#948045)
Posted Monday, April 22, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars I was excited to do this review bacause of its previous high rating and I wonder how new good progressive rock sounds. Worth saying is that Steven Wilson is totally new to me and what I hade heard of Porcupine Tree didn't get me impressed. So I wondered what this was and of course I allways want to give it so many stars as possible so let's start.

After listening to this record I am impressed of many things, especially the production seems to be fantastic. The music is very coherent and the musicians are fabulous. It sounds new but there is also many similarities with older prog. "Luminol" is an excillent starter, fast and melodical and we meet a flute and a great keyboard. That is my favourite track along with "The Holy Drinker" which is another marvelous track that shows us this guy can play progressive forward minded rock. The record is full of great melodies and organisations of them. What is lowering this music is that Wilson seems to be a mediocre singer. I dont feel there's emotions there and the song also drowns in the rest. Sometimes this music is very advanced and contains a lot of gems to lose oneself in and this is definitely a record to play again. But it is not a masterpiece as many say, It's just a good and talanted piece of music.

Report this review (#951740)
Posted Tuesday, April 30, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars I'll begin this review with a confession. Although I've never disliked Porcupine Tree, Blackfield, etc., for years I considered Steven Wilson to be extremely overrated. I understood the appeal but never the widespread obsession -- fans and the press alike were treating him like the new prog messiah, and I simply didn't get it.

Recently, on the strength of "Luminol" (courtesy of Prog magazine's CD sampler), I thought there just might be a little something more going on, so I picked up The Raven that Refused to Sing (and Other Stories). I had the privilege of listening start to finish on a long drive alone...and I almost had to pull over more than once because I was so overcome by how amazing this album is. The musicians are stellar, the sound is pristine but wonderfully organic, and the songs are powerful enough to create their own worlds and instantly transport the listener there.

This is one of the few albums I continue to play straight through on every listen, without skipping a moment. That said, certain moments do stand out. One of my personal favorites is that section from 7:10 to about 8:50 in "The Watchmaker." Against such a macabre lyrical backdrop, those layered vocals are so haunting and beautiful that I was reduced to tears on the first couple of listens (and still get chills every time) -- and that's saying something for a singer who generally struck me as average to mediocre.

Despite my ambivalence about some of his other work, I have no reservations in calling The Raven that Refused to Sing an absolute masterpiece. This is the stuff of genius.

Report this review (#957647)
Posted Saturday, May 11, 2013 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars If I go through my music collection there are numerous albums by Porcupine Tree, No-Man (even a compilation with a song by No Man Is An Island Except The Isle of Man), Blackfield etc., so it can be said with some confidence that I am no stranger to the music of Steven Wilson, and it could even be argued that I am a fan. I also love many of the albums he has been involved with remastering, so why do I feel so strangely indifferent to this? There is no doubt at all that there are some fine moments on here, and it opens with some superb bass from Nick Beggs (who I like to think of as ex-Iona as opposed to ex-Kajagoogoo), yet for all its' complexity and cleverness it somehow leaves me strangely cold.

As I write this it is the number one album of the year to date according to PMA, yet I would much rather play number 2 (Big Big Train), 4 (Comedy of Errors) or 5 (Riverside), but why? I have puzzled over this and the only conclusion I can come to is that for some reason this feels false. It is as if Steven is writing a prog album because he can, and knows all the buttons to press to ensure that it is raved over by fans and critics alike. There are wonderful harmonies, great swathes of keyboards, flute and mellotron, all being brought together to produce some wonderfully complex yet flowing prog but to my ears it all sounds somewhat contrived. Having read numerous reviews I have found it interesting to see that I am not the only who feels this way, although it is obvious that we are very much in the minority.

What really irks me is that although I haven't enjoyed the album nearly as much as I wanted to, I can't bring myself to award it any less than 4 stars as it is such a clever piece of work. If only it contained a prog heart and soul it could have been so much better; although I am fully aware that most progheads will welcome this with open arms I'm just not one of them.

Report this review (#965378)
Posted Sunday, May 26, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars WOW, this album became really popular. I'll start by saying: we are in 2013, the 70's are way back, and making good and innovative music these days is very hard because there is so much history in progressive rock... buuut... Steven Wilson deserves 4 stars for this album in my opinion.

This album may not be pure gold but it sounds awesome and has touching moments (the last song), groovy moments, powerful riffs such as the beginning of the fist song for example and the arrangements, specially the drums by Marco Minnemann, are very modern and tight. Very well composed music with excellent sound and musicmanship.

When reviewing this album I have in mind these facts: this is a soloist album - it is a step foreward in Wilson's carreer - it is obvious that there are many influences that made this album possible but it is inevitable to have influences unless you born composing and playing music whithout any reference!!!

I was about to give this album 3 stars but it's not just good. It's VERY good. I do not consider it an "Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection" tho because of the last thing I said about the influences; it is true that I prefer listening to other prog rock albums that are either more experimental or older, or both. So that one last star missing would be innovativeness, in this case.

This is not an album for purists but it's great. Steven Wilson is reviving prog rock in his own way and that intention is why i think this album deserves 4 stars and not 3. Recommended for young people!

Report this review (#966605)
Posted Wednesday, May 29, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars The Raven That Refused to Sing is the third solo album by musician Steven Wilson and was released just two years following his previous solo outing, Grace for Drowning. Given the extremely favourable reception that Grace for Drowning received from the progressive rock community, expectations were high for this release. While this album may not be without flaws, it is certainly one of Wilson's best and delivers on nearly every front.

The material on this record is exceptional and Wilson's increasing maturity as a composer and lyricist is evident. The music contains a ton of great ideas that are fully explored and cover a variety of different moods and atmospheres. I could do without some of the more dissonant and heavy passages and sections in the music, but this has to do with personal preference and I understand and respect their inclusion.

The tracks are all stylistically similar to other music in Wilson's recent repertoire as well as being reminiscent of some of the progressive rock of the 1970's. While each piece is strong, "Drive Home" and "The Watchmaker" offer some of the best music on the album. That said, the emotional title track stands out as the strongest of the album and perhaps even Wilson's career (a bold statement, I know!).

My biggest complaint about the album revolves around Wilson's use of song structure. While most of the songs are quite cohesive, there are instances where it seems like Wilson has simply stitched together sections of music that have little or nothing to do with each other. This is perhaps most obvious in "Luminol", where all of the sections of the song are very strong but do not fit together in a logical manner. Nevertheless, this is only a minor drawback considering the quality of the music throughout the record.

Unlike Wilson's earlier solo material, The Raven that Refused to Sing features a band instead of just a slew of session musicians. The record certainly benefits from this; each of the musicians is given the opportunity to bring their level of expertise to their respective parts and the band chemistry brings a new level of interaction that was absent on Wilson's previous solo releases. The sheer musicianship and technical prowess present in this lineup is simply jaw-dropping. Although each member of the group offers something to the music, the guitar wizardry of Guthrie Govan and the drumming of Marco Minnemann are really fantastic. The playing on this album is practically flawless, and makes it that much more enjoyable to listen to.

Overall, The Raven That Refused to Sing may just be Wilson's best effort yet. The quality of the compositions, musicianship, and lyrics on The Raven That Refused to Sing make it a must for any fan of progressive music and may very well establish the album as a classic in the future.

Report this review (#971354)
Posted Wednesday, June 5, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars I am a deep follower and admirer of Steven Wilson's career since I discovered his great creative potential more than 10 years ago, and I think without a doubt that "The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)" symbolizes the most height of his creative career, because in the whole, this is a Complete disc more than its predecessor, better managed and a solidity that is reaffirmed as a leader at the forefront of the progressive current of our times, compacting best musical referents '70s, as King Crimson, Genesis and Pink Floyd, and recruiting Alan Parson, evolving into an elegant modernity.

The album, as you know, is based on tales and ghost stories that will not go, but that provide the basis necessary for the deployment atmospheric instrumental and bombastic sound that Steven Wilson has accustomed us.

Beginning the album with "Luminol" (12:10) shows fully the complex vocal and instrumental ensembles an issue that makes it clear that the sounds of the '70s in the hands of Wilson are more than a resource, are the essence and meaning of modernity of where you want the artist evolve and where just maybe might be missing the drones sounds well made, explored in his earlier works. Topic elegantly epic, virtuous, excellent.

"Drive Home" (7:37) are the remnants of recent work with Porcupine Tree, starting with a beautiful and sweet melody, keyboards especially in parts reminds me of the sounds of Radiohead "OK Computer" or " amnesiac ". Very touching theme development, which increases greatly toward the end guitar solo Guthrie Govan, splendid.

"The Holy Drinker" (10:13), is for me the strongest point of the disc. History devilish and hallucinating, which contains everything you expect from Steven Wilson and his band, which sounds seventies psychedelia date has masterfully role. Exultant, powerful and mysterious.

"The Pin Drop" (5:03) is to be like the second part of the previous item, captivating vocals and saxophone, tremendous melody, beautiful drum work, from the subtle to the power and madness masterfully whole subject is recorded easily into the subconscious.

"The Watchmaker" (11:43) ghost story turns out to be the best achieved, starting with a subtle melody where soft and gentle winds principle Travis, adorn a beautiful work from minute 4:31, and at times most critical towards the end, brings to mind the interpretation on the album "Pulse" from Pink Floyd's song "Shine On You Crazy Diamond". Keyboards, drums, bass and guitars are deployed together masterfully. Extraordinary.

The sixth and final track, "The Raven That Refused To Sing" (7:57) reminds us again interpretive subtlety of Tom York, which confirms the stylistic connection of both artists in the most melancholy. However, the 4:30 minute track develops after the post rock sticking towards more enlightened interpretations of Anathema, comforting the spirit and achieving a light of positivity after so many spooky stories. A final round.

In short, a masterpiece that will remain for posterity, to date the best prog rock album 2013, 5 stars definitely.

Report this review (#976510)
Posted Wednesday, June 12, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars Steven Wilson's "The Raven" is a decent attempt of a 70s/retro-prog with a bit of a twist, but overall the whole package is unexciting. Like the cover, the best part of the music on there seems dreary and grey (not helped by the repetitive use of meaningful themes about death and the supernatural). Of course, Wilson's talents are pretty undeniable when it comes to playing and writing progressive music, but aren't brought across well enough on this album. It seems very same, and merely shows his potential for me, with brief moments of soulful, intricate and original composition. This keeps the album breathing, at a fairly solid 3 stars. That said, I am for some reason drawn to listen to this album despite my issues with it, pushing it up to the higher regions of 3 stars. I can definitely appreciate what people like on "The Raven", and the familiarity with bands like Pink Floyd and King Crimson that seem to reassure these Wilson fans, but I personally look for something innovative and more risk-taking (the real definition of progressive) which will help me to bond with the music. On the whole, I guess I'm not a fan.

"Luminol" is a strong opener, but is a little too stretched out for my liking. The intro is nice and melodic with a good feeling of a sort of controlled passion emanating from the numerous instruments. Those harmonies and lyrics are pretty typical as prog goes, and gets more cringeworthy every time I listen to it. The song doesn't feel sound like it was intended to be written though (a display of Steven's ranges in songwriting and performance to blow the listener away with intense moments of sort of light and shade). The story of the dead busker is quite sweet, and the best section of the song, and perhaps side one. The lyrics are more thought out and fitting, as are the guitars and flutes. Of course, there are still a few cliches put in the background to keep him on steady ground, plus the airy ascent virtually identical to "Heart Of The Sunrise" (or something on Fragile?). On the whole, the track goes through a few changes to keep it moving along and entice the listener, but there are many weak moments and very few astounding ones.

"Drive Home" is intended a much gentler and emotional track, but you can't get over how it feels like an inferior clone to the prog giants Wilson is trying to match but doesn't manage to. Whilst definitely an impressive feat to write an album like this alone, I feel he's going down the wrong path with his music and could become something more long-lasting. The song contains some mediocre acoustic arpeggios and predictable, fairly lazy harmonies really. Just a bunch of melodies stuck together really, and Govan's guitar just drags on by the time of his solo (which kicks off much later that it should). You get the bare minimum given to you to keep you focused, but nothing at all amazing or ground-breaking here.

"The Holy Drinker" is the same kind of thing. Lifeless frilly flutes and guitars taped together over a static chord progression. The mellotrons and keyboards don't seem to do anything either. By the time Steven's vocals enter, it evolves into a pretty textbook sly atmosphere. After "unquenchable thirst", there is a pleasant surge of power but this isn't altered on repeats and becomes a little apathetic. You just sort of accept what's going on but aren't really listening, so when another instrument enters, you focus much more on what it's doing. A fairly sagacious technique, but I'm glad I saw through it. The lyrics are overall poor, and all of the better sounding ones are copies of what Genesis would use. Such a painful drag by the end.

"The Pin Drop" follows. Instantly you can recognise the relation with the melodies from Pink Floyd's "Animals", but well placed really (as lazy writing goes). One of the better tracks, with a brighter more lively feel combines with the dark droning sort of harmonies you here from prog metal bands. Comparable to "Drive Home", but with a more rigid storyline and musical base. Therefore, the eccentric but melodic noodling fits over the top and comes together better. Despite this, I'd still much prefer to listen to something by Pink Floyd. As I've said already, he's set himself some extremely difficult-to-conquer rivals in choosing this genre, and is still far from winning.

"The Watchmaker" reminds me of Rush's most recent effort "Clockwork Angels". Unfortunately for this review, that album is one of my most treasured by that notorious heavy prog outfit, so I'm going to be pretty biased and judgemental. For a lyrically narrated 12-minute track, the story is not good at all. Thinking of songs like Genesis' "Musical Box" and "The Battle Of Epping Forest", this is undoubtedly weak in comparison, due to its lack of experimentation with chords and the evolution of storytelling. The song has some nods to Genesis too, in the suspended acoustic guitars and sweet falsetto airy melodies, not to mention the tight drumming, resonant organs, fuzzed guitars, and use of the flute. As a huge Genesis fan, I do connect with this track more than the others, and it is quite well arranged in sections. More admirable moments on here than possibly any other track on the album, so a good piece really.

"The Raven That Refused To Sing" closes the album. Seeing as this is one of the stronger tracks, I would have preferred it to be used on side one to keep me more engaged. "The Watchmaker" or "Luminol" would have made just as good an ending. Anyway, a beautiful chord progression (incredibly similar to one I wrote a couple of years ago) but somewhat overblown by the end. The video attaches a strong emotion to the song, so it's hard not to imagine it with a fresh mind set. A good bass line, and occasional melodies are slotted well into the track (but often over used). Adapts a charming atmosphere, and isn't too rushed or as obvious in indulgence. Feels more honest and listenable, with some great lyrics. It only really falters in perhaps a reluctance to move around (although it could upset the feel), and the arrangements/passages on some instruments, which also enter at the wrong time. Nevertheless, the best track on the acclaimed "best prog rock album of 2013". The superb motifs and contrasts make a pretty stunning conclusion to Wilson's otherwise uneventful work.

C(+): Evidently a very subjective album, difficult to recommend. For me, quite a tedious listen flavoured only by the odd occurrence of an elaborate musical passage.

Luminol: **** Drive Home: *** The Holy Drinker: *** The Pin Drop: *** The Watchmaker: **** The Raven That Refused To Sing: ****

Report this review (#984546)
Posted Sunday, June 23, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars Steven Wilson is a pure product of a tale, a story of well-played music, a family tree that it'll never dry. In his last work, for me an excellent album but not a masterpiece as i've seen on previous comments (but not a majority), he tried to find a little place outside of the monothony of the last PT songs, too heavy, but he reached standards so close to PT albums in the 90's era. A mix of progressive rock, not the baroque porg as ELP or Genesis, with pink floydian atmopheres as interval/pause with the help of a genious as Marc Minnemann on drums! Why Dream Theater didn't choose him after Portnoy? Some of life's mysteries should be explained...

Report this review (#985053)
Posted Monday, June 24, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars PROG-album of the year .... of the decade?

A t the beginning, Steven Wilson didn`t start my fire. I was spoiled of my favourite Porcupine Tree records. But after a while you understand the music and the intention. The raven that refused to sing... now is my favourite. The best song is "luminol": the song starts very quickly and impulsive, after 4 minutes it changes in great melancholic part, then the song creates a complex structure before it ends with a perfect round-off. Twelve minutes of a great music explosion. The other songs are perhaps over the average, but luminol is on the top. The sound is the best I ever heard. What will be come next?

Report this review (#987194)
Posted Thursday, June 27, 2013 | Review Permalink
2 stars 2.5 stars.

I will say this, I am definitely not a fan Steven Wilson work, but this was a better album than I expected. Overall though, the album seemed generic to me. There are some cool jams here and there, but nothing especially unique or that I haven't heard in other prog albums hundreds of times before.

Like I said, there are some cool moments, like the fast paced openings to "luminol" and "the holy drinker" and some pretty good piano and flute work, but even those tend to drag on. The vocal sections are dull. The songs themselves don't really seem to go anywhere. There are some decent melodies, but they are pretty underwhelming in the end. Lots a filler made me lose intrest.

This is not a bad album, but it just feels so stale. There wasn't any wow moments, just lots of cliche prog tricks which don't really do much for me anymore. The songs lacked any catchy melodies or riffs. Its has a decent spacey atmosphere to it, with some shifts in time signatures and some boring guitar solos that sound like a poor David Gilmour. Nothing special here, sorry.

Report this review (#998724)
Posted Monday, July 15, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Steven Wilson may have finally done it: He may have created an album that will stand, years from now, among the classic prog masterpieces of the 1970s. Though extracting many, many sounds, riffs, stylings, and themes from past masters, M. Wilson has woven together quite a tapestry of mature, masterful artistry. The opening song, "Luminol" (12:10), starts out part POLICE "Synchronicity" and part YES "Close to The Edge" (though, to be most accurate, more like WOBBLER's "L6 Bealtaine"). Once established, in high gear I am more reminded of YES' "Tempis Fugit" from Drama. Throughout the song it is the drumming that most attracts my attention, though the organ play is also pretty cool. The soft section at 4:50 is very nice--especially the FRIPP/BACHMAN electric guitar flourishes and, later, the flute play. From the 8:35 mark on they might as well be singing, "But I fear tomorrow, I'll be crying. Yes, I fear tomorrow, I'll be crying" (a la Greg Lake on KING CRIMSON's "Epitaph"), but the final two minutes again excels with its return to its original RTF "Duel of The Jester and The Tyrant (Part I)"/POLICE pace and outstanding collective instrumental performances. Like 2009's "Time Flies," this is a great song despite its derivative sounds and parts. (9/10)

2. "Drive Home" (7:27) begins exactly like a FOCUS/JAN AKKERMAN song (from Mother Focus? Or from Focus Con Proby?) before becoming pure Steven Wilson: plaintive singing voice, acoustic guitar, piano, light drums--a lot like "Lightbulb Sun"-era PT. Incredible melodies (including the AMERICA "I Need You" acoustic guitar picking foundation), great teamwork and sound mixing. The orchestration and clarity of mix make this a beautiful and powerful song despite its bucolic pace and soft-jazz feel. (9/10)

3. "The Holy Drinker" (10:13) has an incredible RETURN TO FOREVER Romantic Warrior/Music Magic-era sound to it--including synth work reminiscent of Chick Corea, bass work reminiscent of Stanley Clarke, drumming reminiscent of Gerry Brown, and sax work reminiscent of Joe Farrell. Once the vocal section arrives the song has taken on a much more heavy element--kind of AYREON, THE TANGENT and NEMO-ish. I hear Andy Tillison- like keyboard play, Theo Travis's flute, and Keith Emerson-like organ play. The final section feels very ELP-like. Good song. (8/10)

4. "The Pin Drop" (5:10) has an interesting OCEANSIZE feel to its first couple minutes--especially interesting considering the word "pin" is in the song title. Once the soprano sax solo takes charge, the song takes on a different feel--through the chorus, but eventually returns to the opening themes with multiple voices singing as if in some Mother Goose fairy world. The chorus section "Love learned" is stellar, and the "I am tired of struggling" bridge section is equally awesome. Really, with "Luminol," this is a standout song for me. (9/10)

5. "The Watchmaker" (11:43) begins with a kind of ANTHONY PHILLIPS/GENESIS Trespass-era feel (because of its 12-string guitars, no doubt). The vocal enters giving the song more of an AMERICA feel--doubly so when the multi-level vocal harmonies are used. The background pastoral flute solo is more like that of John Hackett on his brother Steve's first solo album, Voyage of the Acolyte. Yes, this feels strongly as if it is a Hackett/early Genesis reproduction. The upbeat turn treads more into the realm of WOBBLER's last album, Rites at Dawn--a carbon copy of the basic elements of "L6 Bealtaine" without the amazing vocal and vocal harmonies. The piano-led second part introduces some new themes and instrumental combinations along with some excellent multi-layered vocal harmony work--part Moody Blues, part CSN&Y, part The Association--followed by some awesome sax, bass, and drum soli. Chris Squire-familiar bass riffs precede a psychedelic, mellotron-enriched section a bit like UTOPIA's "Still We Are Here" part of "The Ikon"--evolving more into something like "The Ikon" finale with its own finale. "Watchmaker" is an awesome recreation/imitation of some of the best delicate songwriter- singers of the 70s, though, IMHO, not nearly as good as WOBBLER or BROTHER APE. Still, this a very pretty song of sensitive instrumental play and vocal work. (8/10)

6. "The Raven That Refused to Sing" (7:57) is, to my mind and ears, the album's weakest song--and also its least derivative of the past masters. It has more of a RADIOHEAD-Post Rock/Math Rock construct and feel to it, which is, in fact, IMHO, its downfall in that I'm always waiting for some big denouement or dramatic shift. Instead, it slowly--very slowly--builds around a very odd, persistent, RADIOHEAD-like piano chord progression, eventually crescendos and then dies. (7s/10)

This is an album of reprocessed, reused, recycled and repurposed musical sounds, riffs, ideas--mostly from the 1970s. Though it is an excellent production of very well constructed and incredibly well performed songs, it really is all too familiar. BUT, I recognize and value the fact that someone with an incredible reverence for the music of the past has made an incredible effort to meticulously weave together splices and bytes from the past into new songs. Genius? Yes. Masterful? Yes. A masterpiece? Perhaps. Raven et al. is definitely my favorite work from Mr. Wilson since Fear of A Blank Planet?and much better than Grace for Drowning. And definitely one of the best albums I've heard from Y2K13. Though it seems too early to judge whether or not this will go down as a "classic" or "masterpiece" I have to admit that it has the feel of a classic masterpiece--one that will be played, remembered and perhaps even revered years down the road.

4.5 stars, rated up for outstanding production, performances, consistency, maturity and memorability.

Report this review (#999339)
Posted Tuesday, July 16, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Steven Wilson / The raven that refused to sing (And Other Stories) (2013)

In the last eight years I have been a regular visitor to Progarchives, site which opened me the door to endless good music hard to get in my country, Chile. Today, finally, I decided to become a member of the site. This is my first review and what better to dedicate it to this extraordinary album from Steven Wilson. It's a perfect synthesis of the best progressive rock of the 70's and modern trends. The musicians play their instruments masterfully, all perfectly amalgamated by the compositions of an inspired Wilson. The live show is equally memorable, where musicians look even better. It's the perfect album to enter the contemporary prog world, definitely.

Report this review (#1007693)
Posted Sunday, July 28, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Impressive work by Steven Wilson, "The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories)" is an album which sounds more like a work inspired in Edgar Allan Poe (maybe that is why he chose to work with engineer and classic producer Alan Parsons). All the songs are full of excellent progressive movements and every single instrument has a sublime sound, not for nothing he selected the best musicians for the album: Guthrie Govan and Marco Minnemann (The Aristocrats) on guitar and drums, respectively; Nick Beggs (Steve Hackett Band / Kajagoogoo) on bass guitar; Theo Travis on flutes / clarinet / saxophone and Adam Holzman (Miles Davis Band) on piano and keyboards. All the songs honor the classic seventies sound mixed with a powerful new sound. All the songs are incredible that it is difficult to determine which is the best track, even though, my favorite track is The Raven That Refused To Sing and of course Luminol. Impressive album!
Report this review (#1025155)
Posted Wednesday, August 28, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Steven Wilson strikes with his modern album "The Raven That Refused To Sing (and Other Stories)" and brings all the magic that the progressive music as to give... Not only this album touch my heart, as well it became a "lifestyle" for me, this was undoubtedly my favorite "winter album" and as I CONSIDER UNTIL NOW, THE ALBUM OF 2013 YEAR.

Being a great fan of "Grace For Drowning" I can say that this new album comes with all the improvements that had to be done (of course they are different concepts...very different!) but just in a progressive way and as a development of the band... putting into consideration that his solo work only has 3 studio albums, we all know that steven wilson still have so much to show us about who his solo work is and for what he is directed to. Personally I love this kind of album structure (small ones,6/7/8 tracks) in my opinion it's one of the best album compositions ever, Steven Wilson did the same with Porcupine Tree's "Fear Of A Blank Planet" containing just 6 tracks, and with all the tracks being so emotional and important. This is what I think to be a masterpiece piece, Steven Wilson does this too with Raven, and does it perfectly, to the very beginning to the very ending all the tracks are unique. Know technically speaking, the formation (band) that steven wilson choose, was amazing and by far my favorite, all the musicians are more than profissional,the instruments were perfect for what the album had to transmit. The album starts with the epic "Luminol", fantastic music composition (in my opinion is at the level or even better that some songs of some prog gigantics) it's a song I can listen times and times and never get sick of it. Next we got "Drive Home" which is another great song from steven wilson, I think it's a great addition of a song that continues a prologue like "Luminol",it's a calm and very emotive song. "The Holy Drinker" is the next music and end up being the most "brutal" and "dark" song of the album but nonetheless being away from the album structure,it fits very well again, it's a very melancholic song with a fantastic aura. "The Pin Drop" unfortunately ends by being the last song I that I heard and yet one of my favorites of the album (yet is very hard to tell) the lyrics are amazing as always...we can't expect anything less from Steven Wilson. Going for the final part of the album we have "The Watchmaker" that was the song which were more roundabout from my heart, yet this song used to be in my head times and times (incredible isn't?) nonetheless is one fantastic 11min. piece before the main and last track of the album, Which is the self titled "The Raven That Refused To Sing", first time I listen to this song was while I was seeing the videoclip on youtube, I have to say that I've cried with such a emotive song and it is message underneath it.

To conclude I want to say that these songs (all of them) touch me a lot when I listen to them on winter,(I think the album is much more sensed on winter time) and a artist that can do this, is a artist that knows how to make music and at his max level,it's the power of music. This album it's a fantastic example of this and also gives a wishful thinking of what's to come.

Report this review (#1027004)
Posted Monday, September 2, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars Wilson's attempts at retro-prog have changed focus in recent years. He started as a Pink Floyd fan, then invented his own sound for Porcupine Tree and recently has gone the King Crimson early 70's route with his solo releases. This one is also heavily inspired by the early British classics, but it doesn't sound more impressive than a clever emulation.

Wilson is a clever producer with a brilliant sound. However, as a lyricist he is far from hitting a mark. On "The Raven..." you have only one important track, "The Watchmaker". It could be a reference to Wilson himself, as he probably feels older over the years. But the other tracks are not that impressive.

Wilson has surrounded himself with good musicians, but none of them has a distinctive personality. It's a shame, since Porcupine Tree had a stronger musical character. "The Raven" feels a bit cold and lonely, with many fans wondering "When will SW bring back the PT group?".

It's not the album of the year, and not Wilson best record to date. He peaked in 2002 ("In Absentia") and again in 2007 ("Fear Of A Blank Planet"), but since then nothing really exciting has come through. So if you ignore the glossy production and slick playing of "The Raven...", you're not left with much. We don't need any more KC clones, even if they're made by celebrities such as Steven Wilson.

Report this review (#1036706)
Posted Tuesday, September 17, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars 5.0 Stars. The Album that Refused to Leave my Playlist

As a new member of the site I have dedicated my first 3 reviews to my top 3 albums of all time. My first 2 reviews were on Genesis Foxtrot and Yes Relayer, so it may be a surprise to some that I am giving such a high honour to this very popular but also very new record. Normally when I find a new album that I love I will listen to it frequently 4-5 times and then leave it alone for a while so that I don't tire of it (this even applies to my other top 2 albums). With the Raven it's been completely different, ever since I got it last February it has been the soundtrack of 2013 and it doesn't matter how much I listen it just doesn't get dull!

"Luminol" kicks things off on an energetic note with 4 minutes of mostly instrumental jazz fusion. There is some awesome bass guitar work going on here. It basically gives SW a chance to show off the musical skills of his new band and to clearly declare that this album has a lot more energy than GFD. Vocals come in and the mood turns slower and more atmospheric. Piano and flute are the main instruments used to keep things mellow. After some trademark "la la la's" from Wilson the Mellotron come in and after a few energetic sections the song finishes with the opening theme. It's quite an opening song!

"Drive Home" is more in line with typical PT. It's mainly a downbeat ballet with some string arrangements to add to its beauty. At the end there is a killer lead guitar solo (hands down the best solo of the album!) that still leaves me open mouthed no matter how many times I've heard it. How much you enjoy this song depends on how much you like the softer side of PT (and I'm a major PT fan so obviously this is right up my street). There is a video of this song coming on the Drive Home DVD which I am looking forward to!

"The Holy Drinker" also starts with some jazz fusion, but the tone is much darker and intense. It reminds me a bit of what Opeth are doing nowadays. The verse and chorus section also leaves plenty of room for wild outbursts so that you are kept on your toes. But that's what you would expect for any song that mentions the devil! An ELP inspired section follows which leads to a quiet but tense section. The tension is broken with more dark and intense music that reminds me of The Incident crossed with Opeth. Heavy Prog/ Prog Metal fans should love this song!

"The Pin Drop" is another PT song in essence that has been tweaked to match SW's new direction. It's a fast paced song from start to end with 2 epic solos packed in. While the song structure is traditional PT the music is a lot more complex and technical than usual. Wilson also sings at a much higher range than normal which depending on your view will either be praised for doing something different or just plain annoying. Only you can decide, but you can probably guess what I think...

"The Watchmaker" reminds me a lot of Genesis "The Musical Box", especially during the beginning. Things start with some very beautiful and tender Symphonic Prog in the vein of the intro of the mentioned Genesis song, but without any of the tension. 4 minutes in the song builds up to another frenzied and technical jazz fusion section before settling again. Things drift for a while at mid tempo and la la la's vocals are heavily used. Things are brought to a violent conclusion with another section that is not too far away from Opeth style Death Metal.

"The Raven That Refused to Sing" is probably the most emotional song SW has ever written; it's absolutely heart-breaking! It's the only song here that is driven more by atmosphere than technical prowess (although there is a load post-rock ending). There is another great video of this song which will also appear on Drive Home. It's the perfect closer for what I consider a virtually perfect album.

Before I conclude I want to try to dispel a common criticism about this album. People have said that this album is too much like Retro Prog and that it is a rehash of 70s bands and songs. Let me break it down, tracks 2, 4 and 6 have NOTHING to do with Retro Prog. Tracks 2 and 4 are effectively SW trademark sound and 6 is a mixture of Radiohead and post-rock. Tracks 3 and 5 do contain 70s Prog but they also have ideas that clearly belong to modern prog (like the Opeth inspired endings). Track 1 is the most Retro Prog song present, but Wilson went to extensive effort for that to be the case. The Mellotron solo used in that song comes from the EXACT same Mellotron that was used in King Crimson's ITCOTCK (as seen on the bonus DVD). That song is therefore a deliberate homage to 70s Prog, not a rip-off!

The Raven for me is SW crowning achievement and one of my favourite albums of all time. Will it stand the test of time? Who knows but for me this is easily the best post 70s album I have ever listened to and my love for it is only growing. It takes the best of old and new Prog and blends it together into one cohesive sound. If I had to pick one album to define Progressive Rock in general, it would be this one. A Masterpiece.

Report this review (#1047390)
Posted Sunday, September 29, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Pure art, an all time masterpiece

Well its been a long time since i don't write a review, and i consider this wonderful piece of music as the appropriate way to come back. As a starting point, Steven referred this album to be directly involved in supernatural events, ghosts stories, based on original stories he had read before. Lets not get confused, the album is nowhere dark, or gothic at all; the stories have a more melancholic aura, and tragedy is mostly the main theme of this masterwork. Before going to the "track by track" analysis, its also important to know that this album was engineered by the legend, Allan parson, and was recorded by all the band members as a "live album", all together, hoping to achieve the 70's sound, which they obviously made.. Track by track:

Luminol: the ones we went to the "grace for drowning tour", already knew this song. i remember the time y first listened to it, i was completely mind blown, couldn't understand what they were doing at all. Excellent bass riff performed by Nick Beggs, beautiful vocal arrangements, and the mellotron segment is just glorious. 10/10

Drive home: Beautiful song, wilson vocals here are outstanding, and the band also sounds just delicious, incredible to hear and very emotional. 10/10

Holy Drinker: another absolute masterpiece, strong song, with an almost metal riff, here guthrie govan shows why he is one of the best guitar players of the moment. This one is maybe one of the darkest song of all the disc, and the heavier without any doubt. 10/10

The pin drop: The "lowest" point of the album, but not bad at all. An almost porcupine tree song, nice and energetic. 9/10

The Watchmaker: this one is just awesome, the acoustic guitar is incredible, dark segments, beautifully crafted by the band, you just have to listen to it to capture the atmosphere of this one. 10/10

The raven that refuses to sing: the album title song, really a sad concept, with beautiful orchestral arrangements, and wilson voice is in the center place at grand part of the time. 10/10.

Report this review (#1057922)
Posted Thursday, October 10, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Unique music and a masterpiece! ...

Everytime I plan to write my views about this album I always refrain myself as I wanted to be ensured by myself that what I am writing is really representing the truth, ie. what I do really feel about the album. And to tell you the truth it's hard for me to do so as I was not certain about my views as it was quite contaminated with how I felt with his debut album "Insurgentes" that I did not consider as a good album in some ways. But then I was impressed with his second "Grace for Drowning" which for me was an excellent one knowing his debut was so and so. But with this "The Raven" I put many doubts about it despite my first positive impression especially the first time I heard "Luminol" that really struck my head heavily. But now .. I am ready to write my views having spun more than eight times in its entirety. and I have to admit that this album has become my regular playlist.

The overall album represents good memorable tagline melodies for every song it contains. I can relate the melodies lean themselves from the music of Porcupine Tree (Steven's band). It also has some sorts of complexities from the musical segments it has from start to end complete with change of styles as well as tempo and also some excellent transition pieces in silent segments among the tracks. The harmonies the album produces are really great and sometimes I feel like I am in the middle of something that I enjoy and suddenly it changes to a different nature. Amidst different styles and tempos of the tracks or in fact within the track itself there are many changes in style, the album has solid structural integrity from start to end.

"Luminol" (12:10) blast off the opening experience with powerful and solid basslines by Nick Beggs and brings the music into dynamic and upbeat tempo at start. It's like listening to a kind of progressive metal music with no guitar riffs but it moves excellently from one segment to another. The inclusion of flute work by Theo Travis makes the music is richer in textures. It's really a great and masterpiece track especially when it has changes of styles and temo as the music slows down into silent parts where vocal starts to enter. Oh man ... this is really great opening track! It's not an exaggeration when I say that I have never the kind of music like this Luminol. It's wonderful, really!

"Drive Home" (7:37) is melancholic in style featuring ambient vocal line by Steven that makes the music is interesting to enjoy. The guitar that accompanies the singing line is excellent. It moves straight forward with the kind of Porcupine Tree music, I think. "The Holy Drinker" (10:13) is another energetic and interesting track and it has become my personal favorite as well together with Luminol. Time signatures that Steven plays with his vocal is excellent! There are silent segments that were made to create the rich textures of the music. It reminds me to the Porcupine Tree style.

"The Pin Drop" (5:03) starts solo and melancholic with unique vocal quality of Steven Wilson. It again reminds me to Porcupine Tree. "The Watchmaker" (11:43) starts beautifully with acoustic guitar that later accompanies Steven Wilson vocal. I really enjoy the melody that Steven sings throughout the song. It serves like a musical break until the acoustic guitar fills play differently backed with flute and keyboards. Somewhat I feel like in the vein of early Genesis even though it's different and they go ...!!! Theo Travis plays his flute wonderfully continued with stunning guitar solo. Oh my God ... this is really great! The song moves in crescendo wonderfully! It moves through changes of styles as well as tempo. The end of the track is a dynamic music combining bass guitar and guitar in the vein of King Crimson (a bit).

"The Raven That Refused To Sing" (7:57) is like a requiem at the end of the album indicating ambient vocal line of Steven with piano work played softly. His singing style is really great. At approximately minute 5 the drumming enters the music but the tempo is still mellow and dark, maintaining the nuance of the first five minutes of the song. The mellotron-like sound also demonstrated at the end of the track altogether with piano.

Overall this is a perfect album that deserves five star rating. Despite the musical excellence like I describe above, the performance of the musicians is also great. I love the bass playing by Nick Beggs and also drumming by Marco Minnemann. Theo Travis also plays wonderfully. It's highly recommended whether or not you love Porcupine Tree / Steven Wilson. Sonic quality of the record is also top notch! .... Keep on proggin' ...!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#1067133)
Posted Sunday, October 27, 2013 | Review Permalink
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
2 stars I guess I'll have to be the one to say it?

For me, reviewing album's I don't like has always been an absolute uphill struggle. It very hard for me to review album's as it is, mostly because I feel I need to know them back to front before I can review them. What I'm trying to say is that I usually quite like the albums I review.

Sometimes though I feel I need to write a review for an album I don't like in order to expose more light on albums which I bought and didn't enjoy them much, so that people who do consider buying an album can at least hear the naysayers. I belong to the naysayer camp. "The Raven That Refused to Sing" is a not a bad album but one that puts me in such a state of apathy and boredom I have almost come to hate it (saucyyyyy).

So yes, I have never been a fan of Steven Wilson, or Porcupine Tree, or Blackfield, or anything he has made other than half of "Fear of a Blank Planet" and his beautiful cover of Cardiacs's "Stoneage Dinosaurs". I feel that his work is many times solid, but almost never remotely interesting, or refreshing and unique enough for me to actually give it more than two listens. I was tempted to buy the album, for pretty much one dumb reason alone. The album cover is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. If it wasn't such a mediocre album I would've probably stared at it all day. That gothic-y :O face gives me the creeps and can bring up many thoughts.

The album itself, as you probably understand, isn't worth the purchase though. It starts very positively with the awesome intro to "Luminol"- the intro is a ridiculously tight and groovy bass and drum thing and it's pretty sick. It's when the synth comes in which I was starting to re-evaluate my thoughts, but still had hope. It was when the quiet section came and then the mellotrons and Fripp sounding guitars started was when I started burning my own house. OK those parts are alright but then a really average and not really needed guitar solo comes in and kind of spoils the song for me. Things don't get much better with "Drive Home". It is an alright ballad with some pretty keyboards but the production on Wilson's voice is overbearing and not really needed in my opinion. On the other hand, "The Holy Drinker" opens with a pretty awesome fusion King Crimson style jam that's alright, but the hard rock verses are terrible, but are salvaged by their beautiful second part where the aural keyboards add a really nice touch. The jams are a deal breaker for me. I generally don't like solos, maybe because I'm a bassist and pay close attention to the rhythm section and feel that if they're just there to support some other guy's noodling I stop paying attention. "The Pin Drop" in my opinion the worst song on the album. The melodies don't really do anything for me, and the lyrics are awful ("It was not meant to be like this/ Drifting off without a kiss"?????.).

Luckily "The Watchmaker" has some very strong instrumental parts with great drum fills that make the song very enjoyable, though it is too long. The final ballad "The Raven That Refused to Sing" is actually a very touching song. With powerful lyrics and a strong harmony, I can enjoy it as a good ballad. On the other hand, it is plagued like most of the album with pretty hallow production- something I didn't expect from Wilson. The piano is really weak and lacked I certain oomph I would've wanted.

Well, as you can see, this is review doesn't much beyond skin deep. It is because I feel it impossible to dig beneath this albums fairly shallow surface, my apathy constantly pushing me away. Wilson continues to be irrelevant while being undeniably a very able musician and producer. He has not reached out of his or anyone's comfort zone instead creating a horrifically solid old-school progressive rock album. It isn't nearly enough for it to be worthwhile.

I do hope that one day Wilson will take his very much existent talents to new and interesting places because I think he has the ability to create some truly mind-bending music. Currently though, he's pretty comfortable making albums prog-heads will bob their heads too.

P.S.: Enough with the goddamn flutes already, I've had more than enough of them.

Report this review (#1100870)
Posted Friday, December 27, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Raven that Refused to Sing is the latest solo release from the iconic Mr. Wilson, whose leverage and influence seem to be increasing with every passing year. This album is a miracle of brevity: exactly as long as it should be with barely a wasted note or idea. Intense, technically superb, a sonic masterpiece; virtuosic performances and jaw-dropping solos...everything that the bloated Grace for Drowning was not. It makes for compelling listening from the opening sequence of "Luminol" to the poignantly beautiful title track...and yet for all its technical brilliance, I cannot love it. It does not speak to the heart, only to the rational mind, as if all the emotional hooks have been polished away. I expect I am in a minority here, but if an album holds little emotional resonance for me all the technical genius in the world cannot save it. Therefore Raven... cannot achieve the highest rating--in fact, it only ranked 8th in my Top 10 albums of the year.
Report this review (#1113393)
Posted Sunday, January 12, 2014 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Prog Specialist
3 stars Nice but not great

Before I start my review, must say that I don't care for STEVEN WILSON'S music, so would had never bought the album but it was a gift from a friend and decided to listen it before I threw it to the box of albums that I won't listen again?.But I was positively impressed, the album is quite good, not the masterpiece that most people talk about, but a cute release from the modest 2013.

I can't honestly say what's my problem with Mr. Wilson, because the musicianship is impeccable and the composition pretty decent, but it leaves me cold, there's nothing that moves me, as a fact reminds me of SQUACKET, I knew it was good, I knew that I was supposed to love it, but there's no emotional connection with the songs.

The album is opened by Luminol, a jazzy, electronic track that took me by surprise due to the excellent bass keyboard interplay that reminds me of early MAHAVISHNU, everything seems to work perfectly until we reach the 4:30 minutes mark, when an anti-climatic gap makes me sleepy. Around the eighth minute the band tries to retake the frantic and powerful entrance, but the magic is lost and the song ruined.

Drive Home is a shorter song, but seems to last forever. God it really bored me to the point of wanting to press the skip button. Again, the performance is excellent (except for the vocals), but there's no life, no strength and what is worst, no originality, a tedious ballad that repeats itself during seven endless minutes.

The Holy Drinker retakes the excellent bass ? keyboards interplay with a strong KING CRIMSON influence that keeps me at the edge of the sit until the seventh minute when STEVEN WILSON loses it again with another tedious interlude that invites the listener to bed. The closing section is better, but not enough to reach the excellent level of the first seven minutes.

Most of the reviews I read seem to dismiss The Pin Drop, but in my opinion, it's one of the highest moments of the album. The oneiric and mysterious atmosphere is really captivating, and the vocals don't annoy me. The percussion and guitar performances are simply delightful. A wonderful song that captivates me from start to end.

The Watchmaker is a hit and miss, great ideas, some vibrant moments, but others pretty forgettable and tedious, especially when the singing begins. Not much to comment, I take it as a filler and a prelude for the amazing The Raven That Refused To Sing, a magnificent track with a brilliant structure that goes in crescendo from a sweet intro to a powerful ending...A great closer for a good album.

Rating The Raven That Refused To Sing (and Other Stories) is a real nightmare, because some passages are really good, while others can only be defined as boring, the musicianship and production are brilliant but the composition has too many weak moments that really bored me, so I had to go with three stars, an average qualification for an album that could had been outstanding.

Report this review (#1129104)
Posted Sunday, February 9, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars The Raven That Refused To Sing

This Steve Wilson solo album is very strong, with a definite concept album feel: themes coming and going throughout and holding the music together. Dazzling stuff - three songs get 5 star ratings!! The Watchmaker Luminol Drive Home (Demo)

I heard Steve Wilson play Watchmaker live and it scared me half to death. Very powerful performance (and loud) and disturbing visuals demonstrated a different side to the music I didn't get from the album. Conversely the album is much more layered and sophisticated in sound which were understandably missing live.

After dozens of plays, this album still keeps my attention. A classic I think. Five stars.

Report this review (#1143669)
Posted Friday, March 7, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars It's taken quite some time from to truly let this album sink in and as I have learned from other Steven Wilson-associated projects, it paid off well in the end.

What strikes my interest the most with this album is that it is a set of supernatural stories that Wilson conjured up in his mind, and inspired by old folk-lore or something or another. Upon researching the lyrics and learning what each song was about, there then came room for further appreciation. My personal favorite song on the album is "The Watchmaker", and fans of Genesis would probably find the same opinion. Now that I really think about it, each song deserves to be someone's favorite. The entire album is perfectly balanced and everything fits real nice-like. Wilson's ability to produce and write shine brighter than ever, from the fast-paced rhythms of "Luminol" and "The Holy Drinker" to the pure emotional swells of "The Raven That Refused To Sing" and "Drive Home". The chorus of "The Pin Drop" gives me the chills, especially once I learned what the actual pin drop meant.

If you are a fan of Porcupine Tree or anything that has this man's face/name contained within its contents, I wouldn't hesitate to obtain this wonderful masterpiece if I were you. Each moment is without waste, and every note is calculated perfectly.

Report this review (#1145051)
Posted Sunday, March 9, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars You are warned when wanting to vote 5 stars. A good idea that: Do you REALLY think this particular album is an "essential masterpiece"? the site's robot asks.

But the answer for this album is simple and clear:


And why? Yes, well, that is of course always difficult to pinpoint. What is it that makes a good album an essential album?

The answer to that is individual.

For this album, it has a lot to do with what Steven Wilson does to the musical genre we all love: He is taking it somewhere new while remaining respectful to the roots. His oeuvre is bewilderingly broad and he is damned difficult to pigeon-hole.

I keep hearing snippets of early Crimson, shades of early Genesis, doses of mid-seventies Floyd and Tull, a lot of early Porcupine Tree and No Man but when I focus on the particular bit, it blends into the genius that is Wilson.

This Raven does sing - and it will refuse to leave my rotation for a long time, that's for sure.

Report this review (#1152574)
Posted Sunday, March 23, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars A collection of some of the most beautiful songs you will hear in life! I don't know why I didn't see the beauty in this album the first time! Probably because its so different from Grace before drowning, which is the kind of album you expect the first time you hear it. Instead of the instant beauty of Grace? you get this typical neo prog-ish opening, pretty dirty and hard-rocking with a complex, techy rhythm. The kind of opening of an album that makes you go "Aha, so thats what its going be about. Boooooring", because you heard it so many times already in modern prog. But those who know Steven Wilson well also know that he would not do anything even near that boring neo-prog, and this is not an exception! Soon enough the opening song magically turns in to the Wilson-songwriting we all know and love so much, painfully beautiful and sad enough to make the sun cry. If you liked his other work, both solo and Porcupine Tree, you will be very very satisfied with this album!

I will admit it, the first time I heard this album it thought of it as a collection of standard Wilson- songs, sad sounding guitars, metallic but slow drumming and melodies that would fit perfectly at your funeral. Depressing, beautiful, I heard it before. But after some listenings you start to get the hang of the songs here, you start to sing the melodies and understand the strength in them, how insanely emotional they are. You also find that compared to Grace before drowning, all the songs on this album has a life on their own. They feel more memorable and its easier to get a relation with the album.

I will not go into specific songs here, it would just sound pretentious, overblown and boring. Like describing the girl of your dreams: beautiful, mysterious, impulsive, blah blah blah. But I HAVE to mention the title track which is, honestly, one of the most beautiful songs I ever heard, it always moves me to tears. It starts with a mournful and almost silent piano and Wilsons sad but beautiful voice. Just like a great movie it slowly builds up to an epic and deeply emotional explosion with mellotron and Wilson almost shouting out the pensive melody! Its a modern classic! And don't forget to watch to music video for this one, its art when at its best!

When I think about it, its often the albums I hate in the beginning (Porcupine Tree´s "Fear of a blank planet", Van der graaf generator´s "Pawn hearts", King Crimson´s "Red" to mention some of them) that becomes my favorites. Just like a great relationship cannot always be great, it has to have weak periods when everything is tough as well, maybe the favorite album has to be bad and completely inconceivable before you can see the real beauty in it! I think me and The raven that refused to sing have a great future together!

Report this review (#1158938)
Posted Tuesday, April 8, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars There was once an album called The Incident, by a band called Porcupine Tree, a band above all others I regarded as being at the vanguard of the latest wave of quality progressive rock, taking the genre into the new millennium and beyond. It was an album that I loathed, and felt, well, pretty let down. It was derivative, and one long tangled mess, in my opinion. The love affair was at an end.

As it happened, this was the last PT album released. I purchased Wilson's Insurgentes, the debut solo release, and found it quite excellentat the time, although, tellingly, it has not been played for a long time. I did not bother with the follow up. The love affair was most certainly at an end.

However, when some pretty respected people on this site rated this as a masterpiece, with Tony R stating it was the best prog album of the past 40 years, and when more than a couple of friends whose opinions I rate highly, mailed me to insist that I got The Raven........simply because it was awesome, well I could not resist. This is the joy of this site, that sharing of opinion and influencing buying patterns.

I took my time. This album was released in 2013, and made several critic's album of that year. The accolades are well and truly deserved, and, in fact, the only confusion I have over reading the myriad reviews are those questioning Wilson's motivations in making this album. Aside from being sweet nothing to do with us mere hacks, I believe the answer is fairly straightforward. The motive was to make a fantastic album which not only sounded rich, took his band forward, but also took into consideration the number of influences garnered from being deeply involved in remastering classic prog albums, and blending them with the modern rock movement of which Wilson is such an important part of.

Opener Luminol is a track that has those influences right there in your face. It is so Crimson that it even utilises the Mark II Mellotron that belonged to Uncle Bob and cohorts. It is a track that features sumptuous use of said cranky old machine, and delicious flutes, sax, and clarinet from Theo Travis, who would surely have recognised the Fripp influence from his work with the great man. Also, a special mention here to the thumping bass par excellence by Nick Beggs, who excels throughout. Here, surely, is a man who, above all others, has well and truly escaped from his musical beginnings.

Luminol sets the scene for all else that follows. Not in the influences, per se, but in the sheer breathtaking excellence of a group of musicians who lovingly back their leader's vision of a collective of clever, intricate, and sumptuous musical pieces. Take the second track, Drive Home, staggeringly described as boring by another reviewer. Well, if a delicious ballad, featuring wicked guitar lines and sympathetic vocals delivering a song of redemption is boring, then give me boring any day. I regard it as being quite exceptional, a word, by the way, which amply describes the incredible guitar contribution of Guthrie Govan.

Those are the opening delights. I am not going to deconstruct each and every track, because to do so would, I feel, really take away the whole point of this album, a collection of interesting, really rather introspective, and, above all, intelligent songs that demand listening to as a whole, and burying yourself in the wonder of sounds that range from the symphonic, lush, early Crimson period, through to the jazzy, hard fusion of later Crimson, to some of the rather lush melodic PT sounds which drew me to that band in the first instance, and thence to very classy, and pounding, heavier passages. Most of all, though, this is the vision of a unique talent, one Steven Wilson. No two tracks sound alike. Contained within each track are passages which utilise the vision and myriad influences at play, and, it is fair to say, make this an album which demands careful listening, and repeated listening which brings its own reward. Naturally, of course, the production is top notch. Simply listening to the beautiful, Mellotron soaked, lush feel of the marvellous The Watchmaker's early instrumental passages on my brand new sound system, and every single note from every single instrument is so crystal clear.

This is an album which should be in the collection of every single reader of this review who considers him or her self to be a progressive rock fan, because this album, quite simply, is the epitome of how this genre should sound in the second decade of the 21st century. A fusion of the best of the old and new, but tellingly unique, and a collective of great individuals at the top of their game.

I love it. A masterpiece, fully deserving the full five star review. The love affair is back on, with a vengeance.

Now, then. What was the name of that bloody album I really did not like too much.......?

Report this review (#1165131)
Posted Friday, April 25, 2014 | Review Permalink
1 stars Am I the only person who thinks Steven Wilson owes a fat royalty cheque to King Crimson?

I first got into Porcupine Tree at the Fear of a Blank Planet disc and have been an avid follower of all things PT and SW's solo discs up to this one (In Absentia ranking highest). SW has carefully crafted fan-boy fervor among audio aficionados through his 5.1 mixes, unorthodox instrument choices/time signatures/personal music choices. I counted myself as one of them, until this disc. Now, I feel like a disillusioned deacon of the church of Wilson. The excitement and promise of the next project after the musical genius of Insurgentes and Grace For Drowning fell flat on its face with the best track being a throwaway from the Grace For Drowning sessions (Luminol).

Even though the homage to King Crimson began with Grace For Drowning, it was given a pass due to the brilliance and amazement. I didn't mind the obvious KC rip offs, and even lauded the effort. The Raven sounds like an attempt to blend 70's prog with bad 90's rock.

The disc moves from the promise of Luminol to the banality of Drive Home. Drive Home... if Wilson was trying to describe the feeling he gets when he is driving home after a long time away and is just sick and tired of being on the road and just want to get home...then I suppose it was a success. But I have had enough of those feeling to not want to have to live through that same feeling any more than I have to.

Holy Drinker starts well - the 70's influence is strong and it's great. By the time the lyrics start I feel magically transported back to the lame-o musical landscape that was the 90's. The solo break and we are back to the 70's and it's good...but not brilliant. I've heard Yes before.

The Pin Drop is a decent, middle of the disc filler type song. Nothing bad, but nothing great either. Well, ok the guitar solo is interesting to guitarists. But I doubt that aspect is picked up by non-axe folk.

The Watchmaker...just skip this until the 4:00 mark. Beyond that it ranks up there with Luminol. There are great vocal harmonies and the piano and guitar are killer. By the time the bass kicks in at the 9:00 mark I'm pumped for some serious musical masturbation. It doesn't completely satisfy my longing for the crescendo I hoped for, but it's still a good track.

The Raven That Refused to Sing is a "nice" song. It definitely has a end-of-disc feel to it. A nice conclusion. But "nice" is not what I like from Mr. Wilson. I prefer the edgier material that is Harmony Korine, Salvaging, Veneno Para Las Hadas, Raider II, Only Child, Get All You Deserve, Sectarian, and Index. I could list many more.

Tragically, Steven Wilson may be the victim of his own demise. Having built such a strong expectation, one can only out-do himself so many times.

Report this review (#1201496)
Posted Tuesday, July 1, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is so well-written all the way through. Every track sounds so great, both in context of the album, and they even do very well as stand-alone songs. The best tracks for me are "Drive Home", "The Watchmaker", and "Luminol". I know it's half the album.

There are many oddities about the album. The saxophone honestly sounds like a guitar to me at times. The choice in harmonies also really sticks out, if anyone is so interested in such of a thing, or being aware of that. It can be difficult to describe. I find a meeting between eeriness and beauty, both at the same time present in sections like the later parts of "The Watchmaker" and "The Pin Drop". The instrumental performances are also eclectic and highly expressive. It's exciting. The sound produced on this album, though inspired by groups such as King Crimson, is very distinguished. Steven Wilson has really done something unique here. I'm stoked to see where he will decide to build off of projects like this.

Excellent album.

Report this review (#1226650)
Posted Wednesday, July 30, 2014 | Review Permalink
2 stars This is vastly over-rated in my opinion. As of 15th August 2014 59% of reviewers have given this 5 stars. That has me dumbfounded!!

Luminol opens the album with some nice bass playing from Nick Beggs. But apart from that it is nothing exceptional.

Drive Home is very heavily influenced by early King Crimson but I find it rather boring.

The third track, The Holy Drinker, starts well but is ruined by Steve Wilson voice, he is a poor singer. The best thing about this is Theo Travis' flute and saxophone playing.

The Pin Drops has that annoying voice again from the start of the track. There is some tasty playing by Theo Travis.

The Watchmaker is much better. This is reminiscent of early Genesis and is my favourite track on the album. It opens with a long acoustic guitar passage with vocals although they are an improvement on what has come before. Unfortunately the track wanders off with some dreadful "doo doo" lyrics that ruins the whole piece although there is some good bass around the nine minute mark.

The album closes with the title track. This is initially keyboard dominant, although as it progresses it reminds me a bit of Anathema. If it had been instrumental it would have been a fine ending to the the album but it is again marred by Wilson's vocals.

Overall it think that the problem with this recording is that it has been produced by a bunch of session musicians and guests rather than a band, it lacks soul. To me it feels like prog-by-numbers rather than music that comes from the heart. Maybe if Steve Wilson had hired a good vocalist who could have put more emotion into the lyrics I would be more impressed but as it is I could not give this more than two stars.

Report this review (#1249304)
Posted Friday, August 15, 2014 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars The biggest shock for yours truly is that i'm not giving this a five star rating. After seeing all the five star reviews when this first came out and hearing Wilson himself saying that this is the best album he's ever been involved in made me assume that I, a Steven Wilson fanboy would be giving this five stars, no doubt about it. Then I heard it. Just to backtrack a bit, I feel that "Insurgents" is the best solo album that Wilson has released(although the live "Get All You Deserve" is possibly even better) with "Grace For Drowning" a close second when it comes to his studio albums. Hearing about the lineup and that Alan Parsons the engineer for "Dark Side Of The Moon" was going to put his magic touch on this recording raised my expectations through the roof. Oh, I wanted to also mention that the great Dave Stewart arranged the strings on this album just like he did on ANATHEMA's "We're Here Because We're Here" album.

Before I get into the tracks themselves I have to say that there are passages on this record that are thrilling to say the least, plus I felt so much emotion at times, this is a really good album. My first listen to "The Raven That Refused To Sing(And Other Stories)" of course began with "Luminol" a song I was familiar with from the live "Get All You Deserve" record. My initial impression of the start of this song was "Wilson has got into Math-Rock?". What! Okay it's actually quite the instrumental display with that drum/bass solo to start but i'm still not into that intro. Love the sound of those keyboards that join in though from Holzman. Guitar and flute follow and check out the keys before 3 minutes. Nice. A calm 4 1/2 minutes in as reserved vocals arrive. I like the pleasant backing vocals that come and go. This is a beautiful section as the piano leads for a while. It becomes majestic sounding then the tempo picks up late. This song is about a man from Wilson's town who played and sang on the street for money but he had passed away. Good song but my least favourite. "Drive Home" is pretty much tied with "The Watchmaker" for my third favourite track on here. Tender vocals and gorgeous instrumental work during the mellow sections. It's simply gorgeous 1 1/2 minutes in(gulp). The guitar and mood before 4 1/2 minutes reminds me of OPETH's "Damnation" album.

"The Holy Drinker" is my second favourite tune. Psychedelic keys to start as drums, guitar and bass join in. So impressive! Check out the dissonant sax from Travis then the mellotron joins in. Vocals before 3 minutes then we get a cool instrumental break with flute before 6 minutes. An eerie calm a minute later then it kicks into gear with power before 9 minutes, mellotron too. "Pin Drop" is okay and it's unusual to hear Steven sing in such a high pitched manner. It turns fuller as the vocals continue. Sax helps out and the contrasts between the powerful and mellow section impress. "The Watchmaker" is very mellow to start with reserved vocals. It starts to build before 5 minutes then settles back again with piano and backing vocals. Beautiful stuff. Killer sound 10 1/2 minutes in and check out Marco on the drums. "The Raven That Refused To Sing" is my favourite song on here. And that surprised me because it was a song I heard first as I watched the cool video that came with it. It reminds me of STORM CORROSION, at least it has that vibe. Piano and fragile vocals early in this haunting yet meaningful track. Sweeping orchestral sounds add to the majesty later on.

So yeah a really good record that I will enjoy in the future, but for my tastes i'll take "Insurgents", and hearing that his new solo album will be more guitar driven really made my day.

Report this review (#1301817)
Posted Saturday, November 8, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars With the upcoming album knocking at the door, I decided to summarize my thoughts about Steven Wilson's latest effort. Raven Refused to Sing (and Other Stories) definitely represents a new approach, especially to composition. Gone is Wilson's brief effort of becoming multi-instrumentalist with many guests on each track, as seen on Grace of Drowning. He moves to a role of a lead singer and a conductor of a stable band. Indeed, Wilson gathered great instrumentalists, while he directs them to receive a clear result - old-school prog-rock album with virtuoso performance.

When I heard this for the first time, I immediately recalled Wilson's critics of Roine Stolt and The Flower Kings for being "regressive". It was some 10 years ago. It is a bit ironic now, because I can see that Wilson has become what he criticized in the past.

On Raven, one of his main influences is Gabriel/Hackett-era Genesis, probably a result of collaboration with Steve Hackett and his band (resulting apparently also in involvement of bassist Nick Beggs). "The Watchmaker" is a clear "homage" to Genesis. I would bet that when Wilson composed beginning with 12-string quitar, he had "Can-Utility and Coastliners" in his mind. The same goes for the second half is based around a piano rip-off from "Anyway" (The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway).

"Luminol" is a presentation of Yes influences. Opening bass-line evokes Chris Squire's part in "Roundabout". In the middle part, in its mellotron finale, you can hear Wakeman's heights of "Siberian Khatru" or "Heart of Sunrise". In this song, there is also a strong influence by early King Crimson, especially saxophone parts. Beginning of "The Pin Drop" reminds me of the song "Aliens" from Squackett project. Otherwise, it is quite straightforward piece with nice build-up, probably my favourite on the album.

"The Holy Drinker" echoes modern-day Opeth. Distorted organ, dissonance, grandiose yelling. Akerfeldt's influence is also evident throughout the album. "Drive Home" wouldn't be out of place on Blackfield (except for a wicked guitar solo at the end). In the title track, Wilson focuses again on long build-up and repetition of one melody, trying to create emotional climax.

Wilson clearly pushes for the result - schematization, pathos, lengthy and extended (sometimes self-indulgent) solos and vintage atmosphere. That's why there are so many comparisons. I miss the spontaneity, flow, depth and personal connection as I usually felt on earlier Porcupine Tree albums like Lightbulb Sun or the latest The Incident.

However, I totally understand why a (relative) newcomer into prog-rock or into Wilson's music can find this album fantastic. It is also appealing to those who seek tons of mellotrons, Hammond organs, flutes, saxes, odd rhythms and virtuosity as key indicators of "good prog". Moreover Wilson is still characteristically melancholic and delivers rich atmosphere. It is the most technically proficient album Wilson has produced to date. A good ride, with instrumental and sonic perfectionism.

Unfortunately, when I listen to this I also have a feeling that progressive music is in a state of exhaustion. So many patterns how to create satisfactory "prog". As I also follow Steven Wilson's music career quite closely, here I often feel kind of cheated, overwhelmed by cold calculation. Some uninspired vocal lines and singing. Derivative and predictable. Rather pragmatic than genuine, focused on ego. This direction might be the beginning of decline of Wilson's unique artistry, which he developed especially with Porcupine Tree. Hope that new album will prove me wrong.

Report this review (#1362847)
Posted Thursday, February 5, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars Having recently reviewed Hand Cannot Erase, I realized that I had yet to review this gem. Given that I focused that review almost entirely on the main man, I want to devote this review primarily to all of the musicians involved, and if there is ever a non-instrumental album to devote to discussion of musicianship, this might be it!

Theo. I love his contributions in just about anything, from Steven Wilson to the Tangent. What I really appreciate it his versatility and ability to add to the texture without having to be cranked up to the max for solos every so often. This is clearly not the Theo Travis band, but this album--in particular the delicate and softer parts, but also not to forget the freaky crescendos--would not be nearly as interesting without his contribution.

Guthrie. What a pro. He brings the blistering solos, the intricate picking, and everything in between. Again, and to his credit, I'm sometimes amazed to hear one of Guthrie's original and creative riffs and then hear the guitar gently fall into the background: usually when you hear something that interesting, it's only a precursor to later overindulding.

Nick. I had never heard of this guy before, but shame on me for allowing that to happen. Steven really needs creative basswork to bring his music to life, and it's great how Beggs can work effectively out in front as part of the melody (Luminol) or resisting the urge to simply be a straightforward rhythm player when others might (the Watchmaker).

Marco. Just like Nick, I had no idea of the quality of Marco's work...until of course I started reading reviews and heard over and over how much of a monster Marco is. It's all true, as he is a fantastic drummer, but I really appreciate his ability to add distinctive fills and patterns to already difficult time signatures.

Adam. Solid throughout, and left me wanting more (which I'm glad I would eventually get with the subsequent album). The jazz influence is clear, but not as pronounced as I was led to believe based on previous reviews. The really remarkable quality of his performance for me here is creation of eerie and surreal soundscapes that are simultaneously reminiscent of Steven Wilson's best work but also not as all derivative.

Steven. I suppose I should mention this guy eventually! Great creativity in songwriting, particularly in balance of instrumentals and orchestration. The one minor critique I would have about this album involves Steven's voice: he goes more often with his basic, thin technique, where a little goes a long way. My favorite vocals from Steven's work involve his work with vocal effects and harmonies to great effect, and perhaps a bit more creativity in this aspect would have brought this album over the top for me.

Regardless, a solid album throughout--interesting, varied, and extremely well played and mastered--with bonus points for the haunting animated videos to the Raven and Drive Home to boot. I'm not ready to call it a masterpiece, but it's definitely at the very next highest level in my book, and a powerful and lasting experience.

Report this review (#1386742)
Posted Tuesday, March 24, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars It's plagiarism a-go-go with 'The Raven that Refused to Sing'.

Despite this, it's an excellent and very emotionally pleasing album from Steven Wilson. The whole gamut of his forebears is on display from 'Yes' 'Genesis' 'Rush' ''Floyd' and in particular 'King Crimson'. Thankfully he brings his own particular brand of sound to the forefront, despite all his influences.

What sets him apart from these artists is the beauty and distilled grandeur in the execution of most tracks. I'd far listen to this than any of the aforementioned bands (perhaps with the exception of 'Floyd').

There's such a huge variety of sound at play and he even manages to make a flute sound cool in 2013 which should be an impossibility in itself. Wilson has that lucky fluke of nature where he sounds just perfect for the role with his pleasant, tuneful 'Proggy' vocals in this decade.

The fact that he's the mastermind producer of the 5:1 surround re-masters of King Crimson's back catalogue should give you some idea of the kind of artist we're dealing with here. He has the perfect ear in defining musical dynamics. Crystal clear recording techniques and a wide variety of musical styles make this a very engaging album despite his continual 'hat doffing' to past artists.

It's structurally near perfect, with so much space between each 'recording track' that it gives a feeling of depth and freedom that you're unlikely to hear elsewhere on the Archives.

There are some true moments of sheer beauty on tracks such as 'Pin Drop' which has a succinct build up of layered sounds and delicate vocals quickly leading to a highly memorable chorus with swirling guitars and thudding bass that I find very difficult to get out of my skull after the finish of the album.

I decided to write this after hearing ' Hand Cannot Erase' for the first time. Despite that album's multitude of plaudits, I for one find 'The Raven that refused to Sing' much more engaging, dramatic and emotionally involving than it's successor. To me this is the peak in Steven Wilson's discography.

Report this review (#1399632)
Posted Thursday, April 16, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars I've had a strange relationship with Steven Wilson. Or with his music, anyway.

My first exposure to his stuff was Porcupine Tree's The Sky Moves Sideways, which left me completely unimpressed. It wasn't until I heard Porcupine Tree in their later, more streamlined Stupid Dream phase (via a webcast of their set at NEARFest) that something clicked. I've been a fan since, although I've not dug back into the older stuff (Sky . . . still doesn't really do it for me).

Given that Porcupine Tree is essentially Wilson's baby, it made sense to check out his other stuff. I really like most of what I've heard of No-Man (his collaboration with vocalist Tim Bowness) and would really like to get my hands on his droney ambient project Bass Communion (they're maddeningly hard to come by). So when Wilson went "solo," such as it was, I came along for the ride.

His first album, Insurgentes, mined a lot of his influences that were tangential to progressive rock, if they had any relation at all. As such, it's not overtly "proggy," but has a pan-genre inclusiveness to it that makes it really interesting. I like it more than most people, however. Grace for Drowning, his second effort, wore the influences of his work remixing the King Crimson catalog and went down a much more prog-through-the-lens-of-jazz path. In spite of an amazing list of collaborators, Grace . . . has never done much for me.

Which brings us to The Raven That Refused to Sing (and Other Stories). To tour Grace . . . Wilson put together a killer band that included Marco Minnemann, Theo Travis, and Nick Beggs. From that tour he took those guys right back into the studio for The Raven . . .., hoping to capture some of the energy of the live shows.

The result is pretty impressive, even though it doesn't get me as excited as it does many prog fans. The Raven sounds even more like an homage to 70s symphonic prog, right down to the extensive use of the original King Crimson Mellotron (it pays to be friends with Bob Fripp). It's used to particularly good effect near the end of "Luminol," which in other places fires off riffs that remind me of "21st Century Schizoid Man" (or, more recently, another Wilson collaborator ? Steve Hackett's "Mechanical Bride"). The highlight for me is "Holy Drinker," with some fantastic organ and synth bits. The title track is also a beautiful, mournful cap to the whole experience.

I've lived with Grace for Drowning since it came out, waiting for it to grow on me and rip my head off. It's never happened. But in the few weeks I've had to digest The Raven . . ., I've found myself warming to it noticeably. Not an immediate "wow," but definitely an impressive, layered grower. There's nothing wrong with that.

Report this review (#1453697)
Posted Sunday, August 16, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars I have been coming back to this album again and again with writing a review in mind. And now that it's October 31st in my time zone, I thought there was no better day to write about an album of six ghost stories.

First, let me say that I have three Porcupine Tree albums and of those, two have a few songs each that I really enjoy from time to time. However, unlike some people, I still don't have Steven Wilson and Porcupine Tree in my blood and flowing through my veins. I like the music but I don't love it.

When "The Raven that Refused to Sing and other stories" first began racking up the high ratings on PA, I was not immediately inspired to purchase a Steven Wilson album. It was the song "The Raven that Refused to Sing" and its video that hooked me. I watched the video several times and finally bought the album.

A funny thing is that when this album first started getting reviewed on PA, I read so many positive reviews. Yet after "Hand. Cannot. Erase." came out, many reviewers were expressing tired disappointment with "Raven"'s retro prog sound. Was everyone suddenly not a fan of this album or were there just different reviewers? Though the album has a very strong classic prog side, it is not all a 70's rehashing. It's been difficult for me to pinpoint exactly what or who the album sounds like what but I feel some of the bass lines could be Geddy Lee's work minus the repetition (Geddy never played the same wild bass lines over and over for long) and some of the slashing guitar chords sound like "Signals / Grace Under Pressure" era Rush. The flute would first make you think of Jethro Tull but the style is different, especially in "Luminol". There's sax which could sound a bit Pink Floydian but in "The Holy Drinker" the darker heavy parts with sax actually remind me of "God Bluff" by Van der Graaf Generator.

Though the music does hearken back to 70's prog in style and composition, there's a lot of Steven Wilson's heavier and darker side involved, and some of the prettier parts could just as well suit any modern prog band. If there's one big difference here it's that the music does not sound like anything I have on a Porcupine Tree CD. Personally, I find this music here more engaging and enjoyable.

The concept of six paranormal tales intrigued me the most, though. I love songs with stories and especially where I feel the music helps to tell the story. For the most part, the music here does work well with the themes of the songs. My two favourites are "The Holy Drinker", a song about an evangelist preacher who is a heavy drinker and loses a drinking contest to the Devil and "The Raven that Refused to Sing", a song about an old man on the verge of death who believes the spirit of his long ago deceased sister is embodied in a raven. The former is darker and haunting with some very heavy parts and the later has this sweet haunting sorrow about it, replete with a mournful string section. The video too is so wonderfully made and I have recently shown it to two advanced learners of English who are in junior high, after which I asked them questions about the images and characters in the video. "The Watchmaker" also has a darker and heavier sound, so that appeals to me as well. The other three tracks are also very good in my opinion but get fewer replays on my music player.

If there's one place I feel the album's concept weakens it's on the opening track "Luminol". This track is by and large an instrumental showcase with lots of great bass, flute, guitar, and keyboards, not to mention the drumming. The song, however, feels inserted in the middle and doesn't sound like it fits in with the opening and closing instrumental parts. The beginning of the song, that rollicking, mostly instrumental part with a few sung lines does indeed make for an exciting introduction to the album.

For a description of the song themes you can refer to the Wikipdia article, but I will say that each one is not only a kind of ghost or manifestation of evil story but also a look at the human mind and human relationships. The music is composed and played wonderfully. I would actually give this album four and a half stars but I personally feel rounding down to four stars is not worthy of this fine album. Not a personal favourite but definitely an album that still finds its songs showing up on my playlists when I am not listening to the complete album.

Happy haunting!

Report this review (#1480674)
Posted Friday, October 30, 2015 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
4 stars This lauded release by one of modern prog's best artists currently has almost 60% 5-star ratings here on Prog Archives. That's a lot of stars, and should tell you right away that The Raven That Refused to Sing should be taken seriously. This album is a focused collection of very strong compositions, stellar musicianship, ultra-high production values, and some surprisingly divisive opinions despite its high rating. I don't think that anyone can justifiably argue against the first-rate musicianship and craftsmanship that's on display by Wilson and company, but after listening again and again, now some years after it's release, I'm left with the same emotions I did when I first experienced it at launch: a sort of appreciation tinged with emptiness.

For me this record is like an album that one may listen to in a music appreciate course: significant for a variety of reasons and very interesting, but with an obligatory feel that makes it difficult to resonate with.

The album starts very heavy and complex with the largely instrumental "Luminol," which is a bombastic showcase of the band's virtuosity. The execution is one of crisp professionalism, energetic dexterity, and a balls-to-the-wall attitude that throws down a prog rock gauntlet for the rest of the album to live up to. Wilson's band is so good that it almost makes me feel bad for the gang from Porcupine Tree. This song makes you go wow, and want to listen again and again in the same way that Rush's "YYZ" does.

"Drive Home" is a down-tempo, dynamic, and lush ballad that builds to a shrieking and emotive guitar solo by Govan; a great moment. The lyrics are poignant and melancholy - typical Wilson fair, and effective if not approachable.

"Holy Drinker" transitions to a dark, ominous, a disjointed place that again shows off the band playing very well and with a threatening tone. Even Theo Travis' flute solo comes off as sounding sort of menacing. The conclusion comes off curiously though, with a noisy build that doesn't seem to finish its idea.

The next two songs are examples of where things seem to misfire for me. "Pin Drop" feels like an outtake from Fear of a Blank Planet. Using hot/cold dynamics interchangeably and without direction. The discrete textures and melodies are nice, but don't work when put together. "Watchmaker" is the standout extended track, which opens well with subtlety and restraint. We move from soft, lamentful textures and vocals into upbeat, jazzy passages that interchange melodies... then get to the final fourth of the song which sounds like something out of a horror movie. The juxtaposition doesn't feel genuine, and sort of spoils the tone the proceeded it.

The closing title song combines slow builds, lush instrumentation, and sweeping sensations to great effect. A satisfying conclusion.

By the end of The Raven That Refused to Sing I could probably count on one hand the number of times I felt touched or engaged emotionally, but couldn't possibly count the number of times that I could objectively appreciate the skill and composition of Wilson and his band. This is an odd conclusion to come to, to find so much to like about an album... but in the end not really love it. For me, this release couldn't be judged any lower than a 4- star release, because it's simply so excellent technically, but it could never be a 5-star release, because it didn't connect with me on a deeper level. The overall tone is one that modernizes many of the prog-rock sounds from the great '70's releases, helping make the album a worthy purchase for fans and newcomers alike. However, I think that there is a fair-bit of fanboyism in the reviews.

Songwriting: 4 - Instrumental Performances: 5 - Lyrics/Vocals: 3 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 3

Report this review (#1499980)
Posted Wednesday, December 16, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars Steven Wilson needs to Introduction and his 2013 effort is one of his best in his musical career(if not the best). He assembles a great cast with musicians such as Nick Beggs, Theo and Guthrie. This album is a tribute to classic prog.The Album has six songs and clocks over 50 mins.The theme is about classic ghost stories and each song reflects that.

1. Luminol - It starts with something like a bass solo then other instruments come in until Theo takes over with his beautiful flute playing. The song is about a street busker who would play everyday at the same time over the years like a routine. He was not very good in playing but he would be there everyday, regardless of the weather conditions, it seemed like not even death can stop him and he'd play even after he died. I must stay I am impressed by Nick's bass playing. It becomes a little quiet and gentle before the song ends in a bang with great playing on guitars and bass

2. Drive Home- The vocals of Steven in this one are beautiful he really improved since his PT days. This song is about experiencing something so tragic that you lose your memory about what exactly happened during that time..its like a lamenting love song(not exactly but kind of missing someone and not knowing what happend) it is accompanied by a great music video. This story was suggested to Steven by the guy who did artworks. Lovely keyboards and acoustic guitars in this one....but Guthrie steals the show with his guitar solo in the need to check this out

3. The Holy Drinker- This is a dark jazz inspired prog song, lovely drum playing on this one and Guthrie is great as usual. Steven sings in a dark tone in this one. Lovely sax by Theo too. This song is about people like journalists who are always critical of other people and are "not very nice". So this guy walks into a bar and challenges another guy for a drinking challenge cause of his ego( that guy is the devil himself) and of course you can't win a drinking competition with the devil( duh! ). So he loses and gets dragged to hell in the worst way possible...well Steven interesting ideas

4. The Pin Drop- The shortest song of the album.Its about relationships and how vulnerable they are.sometimes a simple thing such as a pin dropping down can end it...this song is sung from a female perspective who's killed by her husband and is floating down the river. Quite Sad

5. The Watchmaker- The masterpiece of this album.It is the longest track on the album and is clearly the best. Acoustic guitar and vocals give way to some lovely flute playing and an impossible guitar solo by Guthrie Govan. Some lovely keyboard work too in this one. This song is about being in a relationship without any love and just because you are comfortable with it. Time passes by quick and you realize that now its too late to go back. So the watchmaker kills his wife but she comes back as a ghost and says she has been with him so long that he can't get rid of her and kills him(maybe). But anyway great track

6. The Raven That Refused To Sing- The title track is an eerie and haunting song about a man who lost his sister when he was small and made no friends after her and lived all alone. Whenever he was sad his sister would make him feel alright but now that she's gone and he's old he fears death. He sees a Raven and thinks that its the rebirth of His sister and wants the raven to sing like his sister used to whenever he was sad. Very touching song and Steven does a very good job vocally. Great Way to end a beautiful albun

Report this review (#1516633)
Posted Thursday, January 21, 2016 | Review Permalink
Post/Math Rock Team
3 stars I love this album, and yet in 2016 it tumbles in my head, a portent, a plagiarist's opus, a guilty pleasure. For it I've invented the term "popcorn prog", a distillation of a lot of what makes its genre great into a satisfying if unhealthy sonic snack. It's well done, it's wonderful, it's not a true masterpiece. I turned it over in my mind whether to round up or down from 3.5, in light of my unceasing enjoyment, but I decided to be harsh.

After three years and 85 reviews so far, you have a basic idea of what I'm going to say about the instrumentals, but the puzzle goes further than that. The sound is of course indebted to Crimson and Genesis to an amount far above its own GDP, but it's also the endgame of a lot of the sonics of Porcupine Tree and Swilson's early solo career - notably "The Holy Drinker" and "The Watchmaker" mixed together '70's Crim, "Deadwing", and Storm Corrosion. There is a truth that states that this album could only have been made circa 2013, but that's mainly because its creator was revving deeper and deeper into a rut that started five years prior, picking apart earlier successes for spare parts. Many listeners were able to tell with what would otherwise be psychic foresight exactly when and what instruments would come in and what they would play, a sign of cliche. It's cliche done far better than any other retro prog, though, with the driving, dour, epic instrumentals grabbing you by the ears and never letting go. There's virtuosity and at least some soul there, and in the moment most listeners, such as I, can't possibly complain. Plus, while "Luminol" bear hugs you, and "Drive Home" and the title track melt your heart, the aforementioned "Holy Drinker" really stands out as by turns enjoyable and spine-tingling, the SC elements put to fantastic use. Even this recycling still, perhaps for the last time, works.

The real saving grace, however, are the lyrics. Lyrics generally aren't Wilson's strong suit, but they turn out excellently here. Fancy words uniquely anchor beautiful stories of mysterious musicians, jetsam of the mind, and ghosts and demons. It goes a long way to making this record so good.

But of course, while I love this piece of prog pabulum, time has really shown it to ring a little hollow, one last hurrah on the road to "Hand. Cannot. Erase."'s mediocrity, paved with tropes, staleness, and perfectionism gone wrong. In hindsight, "The Raven That Refused To Sing" sticks out as a warning and an important part of a downward trend for Wilson's career, if still a fun listen.

Report this review (#1610575)
Posted Monday, September 12, 2016 | Review Permalink
2 stars Oh Wilson, why didn't you make an entire album in the vein of Luminol: 4/10

When I look at great albums - you know, those with 4.4 ratings - and I see people who give them one or two stars because of reasons, it boils my blood. Why the hell would they rate acclaimed masterpieces such a low score? I feel like it's their duty to explain themselves. After all, not only they're giving an unpopular opinion, but they're tarnishing an otherwise flawless artist's curriculum. Eventually, this situation came to me. And - oh boy - to one of the prog community's most cherished darling: STEVEN WILSON.

THE RAVEN THAT REFUSED TO SING just stale and overall uninteresting. The focus on lyrics and the exaggerated attempt of melancholia repel me, as well as generic modern rock with progressive elements that WILSON offers. His endless homage & influence... rather blatant in many cases... to 70's prog bands is observable on every song.

The exception is the magical "what-if [this was better]" Luminol.

The first four minutes is a showcase of various instrumentations - such as the plethora of keyboards, a flute-busting solo, and guitar licks - blended together under the sturdy work of a sax/violin & bass & drums riffing. Once those first four lively minutes are over, you're given a minimalistic section where STEVEN does his singing, followed by a respectable slow jazz piano piece. Then, at last, the song transitions its entire atmosphere into something terrifyingly similar to In The Court of the Crimson King (hence why so many people call it a rip-off, folks). Needless to say, it's a good part. So there you go, a great introduction for an ungreat act.

In fact, this album is not entirely bland - I can actually pluck a few good passages here and there - but generally speaking, it's dull. As a fan of fast-paced music with perceptible, excited instruments, this is a big turn-off. Perhaps in the future, I'll give this a more thoughtful listen. So for all symphonic, metal or general uptempo proggers out there, beware: WILSON probably isn't your style either!

Report this review (#1693295)
Posted Wednesday, February 15, 2017 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album, like many others by Steven Wilson, has received glowing reviews from his fans praising it as a perfect masterpiece and very harsh negative reviews from those who are not fans of Wilson. I myself enjoy a great deal of Wilson's music, although I would certainly hesitate to crown him the the king of modern prog as many have. As such, I believe that this album is certainly a very competent and enjoyable piece of modern prog, but it is not an essential masterpiece. I believe that most fans of prog will enjoy this record and some may even love it enough to consider it a personal favorite, but it does not truly innovate or amaze in a way deserving of a five star rating.

The album can essentially be broken into two parts- the pieces over ten minutes and those under ten minutes. The longer tracks generally bear resemblance to early King Crimson, involving heavy, jazzy instrumentation with slower interludes making use of keyboards and vocal harmonies. The Mellotron is present throughout. While these longer tracks certainly show their influences, they are still original and unique enough to be interesting and engaging listens.

The shorter tracks, "Drive Home," "The Pin Drop," and "The Raven Who Refused to Sing" are mellower, more melancholic pieces. "The Pin Drop" is a guitar-driven ballad while the other two are more orchestral and narrative pieces. The latter two are very well done, with "Drive Home" including a very well done guitar solo and "The Raven Who Refused to Sing" building around a single simple melody and reaching a truly beautiful climax. "The Pin Drop," while by no means a bad song, is the most forgettable, average song on the record for me.

The production on the album is exceptionally well done, as is to be expected from Wilson. I am not a musician, and so cannot speak as to the exact quality of the instrumentation used, but everything seemed very well balanced and arranged to my ears. The lyrics, while not terrible, are nothing special. They are largely just typical, melancholic Steven Wilson fare.

On the whole, I would certainly recommend that most prog fans listen to this, as I believe most will find something here to enjoy. The album is by no means a masterpiece, but it is a fine piece of modern prog.

Report this review (#1739203)
Posted Wednesday, June 28, 2017 | Review Permalink
5 stars When this came out, together with the previous and the following album, many proggers had this to discuss and share. The reactions were to a high degree positive. Comparing to the previous album, less melancholy and more progressive traces are present. The accompanying musicians are very competent and adding to the more balanced instrumental outing. The first track is a fine and maybe the prime example of how a well blended progressive track should sound - keyboard and guitar shaping the song but supported by very muscular and complex bass and drum section. Saxophone is a welcome addition to this piece of art. The mellotron coloured second half enlives the emotions and heart of every music- thinking person. The track also sounds great when performed live. Drive Home and The Raven that refused to sing are two compositions filled with a large dose of melancholy. Oh man, I can guarantee you that when the watch the video of the latter one, you are going to feel the tears coming! You are going to think about all the hard losses and defeats that you have encountered. Once you have lost somebody, there is no way back and you keep asking yourself if you could have prevented it. Even when watching this song live, emotions on people's faces are very present. Watchmaker has a Genesis-inspired keyboard parts and great vocal harmonies.

This album is a top achievement by Steven Wilson because it has the right recipee for a modern accessible progressive- rock album, great mix, instrumental performance, advanced compositions. Steven Wilson is also a master in conjuring a bleak feeling in progressive rock, which, to my knowledge, no other artist has managed to that degree.

Report this review (#1948228)
Posted Saturday, July 14, 2018 | Review Permalink
1 stars Fellow reviewer ProgShine summed it all up beautifully in their review of this exceptionally dreadful endeavour.

It seems the vast amount of reviewers here at PA think this guy is like the second coming of the Messiah. You see Rembrandt; I see kindergarten finger painting. You hear Mozart; I hear screeching harpies. You think he's a genius; I think he's a masterful fraud.

I've tried and tried and tried both with Hedgehog Shrub and his solo stuff, but I just do NOT like the work of Steven Wilson. And at this point I don't want to waste hours of my life listening to an album 187 times trying to get into it.

And please, don't even get me started on his classic 2015 release: Banal.Beyond.Endurance.

Obviously, your mileage will vary.

Grace and peace, Cylli

Report this review (#1950536)
Posted Sunday, July 22, 2018 | Review Permalink
The Crow
5 stars With Porcupine Tree definitely on hold and after two good albums which nevertheless failed to translate all the genius that this man showed with works like Deadwing or Fear of a Blank Planet, Steven Wilson finally released his masterpiece!!!

Because The Raven that Refused to Sing is one of the best prog records of this decade, if not the best. An outstanding album from start to finish with very weak moments inside (maybe The Pin Drop is a bit weaker, despite being a very good song) and incredible musicianship.

This time Steven Wilson finally managed to truly differentiate his solo career from the Porcupine Tree sound with a much more symphonic record, with roots in the 70's and tons of jazz elements but much more better integrated and not so boring as in Grace for Drowning.

Best Tracks: as I said, I think than The Pin Drops is a bit weaker and more inconsequential than the rest the songs, which are marvelous examples of the best prog-rock imaginable.

Conclusion: in my opinion, The Raven that Refused to Sing marked one of the clear peaks of Steven Wilson's career. A thrilling album, very well written, dark and complex. And he also managed to surround himself of the best musicians imaginable to help him record his best compositions since Fear of A Blank Planet and the result was another masterpiece of modern symphonic prog.

Thank you, Steven! This is what we expect from a man of your talent.

My rating: *****

Report this review (#2084404)
Posted Saturday, December 8, 2018 | Review Permalink

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